Purpose: To explore the use of three-dimensional patient-specific cardiovascular models using rapid prototyping techniques (fused deposition modelling) to improve surgical planning in patients with complex congenital heart disease. Description: Rapid prototyping techniques are used to print accurate three-dimensional replicas of patients' cardiovascular anatomy based on magnetic resonance images using computer-aided design systems. Models are printed using a translucent polylactic acid polymer. Evaluation: As a proof of concept, a model of the heart of a 1.5-year-old boy with transposition of the great arteries, ventricular septal defect and pulmonary stenosis was constructed to help planning the surgical correction. The cardiac model allowed the surgeon to evaluate the location and dimensions of the ventricular septal defect as well as its relationship with the aorta and pulmonary artery. Conclusions: Cardiovascular models constructed by rapid prototyping techniques are extremely helpful for planning corrective surgery in patients with complex congenital malformations. Therefore they may potentially reduce operative time and morbi-mortality.
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