A HAMPSHIRE heart charity is funding a revolutionary 3D printing program to improve heart surgery for children.

Hampshire’s leading heart charity, Wessex Heartbeat, has funded a program that can transform the way heart surgery is performed in Southampton.

The revolutionary project will allow surgeons to get an accurate 3D printed model of a patient’s heart before surgery, giving additional insights and improving peace of mind to patients and their families.

Mr Nicola Viola, who is one of the UK’s top paediatric and adult congenital cardiac surgeons said: “3D printing is an incredible piece of technology which can change the way we approach congenital heart disease treatment in children.

"Working with Axial3D’s 3D printing team allows us to focus on the patient’s heart in the confidence that they are printing exactly what we need.

"Even more importantly, the ability to customise each model before printing allows us to personalise treatment further, ensuring that we know exactly what we are dealing with before reaching the operating theatre.”

The 3D printing program will support clinicians at the the University Hospital Southampton, which has become the latest NHS Foundation Trust to use 3D printing in the hope that it will encourage less evasive, and more accurate, pre-operative planning for surgery on children with congenital heart disease (CHD).

The pioneering 3D printing program will enable clinicians to create a model of the patient’s heart.

The cardiac team at the hospital can request a model by sending a CT scan or MRI scan to medical 3D printing firm, Axial3D.

Once the patient data is received, algorithm and segmentation experts at Axial3D will create and ship a 3D printable model in less than 48 hours.

The models produced will be an exact replica of the patient’s heart, and will offer an in-depth look at the organ, including any tiny imperfections that may have originally been missed.

The use of this new and cutting-edge technology means that surgeons can meticulously plan any operations necessary and completely minimise the number of invasive operations and procedures that the child will undergo throughout his or her life.

Once used, the 3D hearts can also offer training and practice opportunities to help develop more precise and efficient surgery techniques.