3D technology helping doctors repair baby's heart

3D technology is helping advance many fields, including medicine. It's being used to make less expensive prosthetics and also to help surgeons prepare for tricky procedures.

It has also helped repair a baby's heart.

It was a complex problem on a very young child and it would take a complex procedure to fix it. But using 3D technology, doctors can now plan out every move of a re-construction ahead of time.

Near the start of her third trimester, a routine ultrasound took an unexpected turn for Megan Curtis.

"When you're told that your baby is sick, that's the scariest moment of your whole life, especially being a first-time mom," she said.

Megan's baby girl, Paisley, had a severe heart defect. It was backwards and missing the left side - that's the power house of the heart.

At just 6 days old, she had her first heart surgery. Her second surgery came 9 months later - an innovative procedure - using pieces of the heart lining to rebuild the left side of her heart and re-route blood supply.

"We're actually converting her into two pumping chambers like normal people and that is the concept we think is very unique in Paisley's heart," said Dr. Hani Najm.

To prepare, doctors used a 3D heart - an exact replica of Paisley's anatomy. It was used to plan each incision, connection and suture.

"We examined this 3D printed heart with our hands and we looked at the possibilities of how can we route this in a way that it functions as a normal heart," said Dr. Najm.

Traditionally this type of defect is repaired using a procedure known to fail over time, but this new approach is designed to avoid that complication, and allow kids to be more active.

Paisley is now a year old - full of energy and working on catching up on milestones, one step at a time.

"She is just always happy and smiling and saying hi but she's such a blessing and a little miracle and it just radiates off her," said Megan.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was among some of the first hospitals to start using 3D printing to create heart models.

Experts recommend parents of children born with heart defects look for centers using this new method.

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