Maastricht University Hospital Introduces High-fidelity Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Repair Simulator. When you think of the combination of 3D printers and hospitals, the first thing that comes to mind are 3D printed implants and even 3D printed organs, made a patient’s own stem cells.
While those applications are certainly being developed, cardiovascular surgeons from the Maastricht University Hospital have just reminded the world that some existing invasive surgeries can also yield better results through 3D printing. They have developed an educational simulator that includes custom 3D printed heart valves on which surgeons-in-training can practice these complex surgeries and give them the confidence to opt for this challenging procedure.
It’s a solution for the degenerative mitral valve disease, which affects blood flow from the lungs to the heart and is known as one of the most complex cardiovascular issues that can lead to heart failure. It is a disease that is perfectly treatable through a mitral valve repair surgery, featuring a minimally invasive procedure and just a few incisions. If successful, the patient should experience very few side-affects and rehabilitation difficulties. Nonetheless, it’s not a procedure many surgeons will quickly oft for. “Surgeons are still deterred from adopting this [repair] procedure because of a steep learning curve,” the Dutch surgeons say. “Simulation-based training and planning could improve the surgical performance and reduce the learning curve.”
For right now, many surgeons are trained using the relatively archaic practice of just learning on-the-go – something not many patients would be happy about if they found out. “I am convinced that in the future, learning surgery on the job is no longer acceptable,” says Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery Jos Maessen. His team of researchers therefore set out to develop a patient-specific simulation for mitral valve repair, giving surgeons a chance of preparing for upcoming surgeries and simultaneously providing a proof of concept of personalized medicine in a patient.