Online Extra: Have a Heart

Dr. Wilson King and Dr. Nadeem Parkar’s 3-D heart is right on beat to revolutionize surgery

Dr. Wilson King, M.D., and Dr. Nadeem Parkar, M.D. are among the first scientists in the nation to pioneer to-scale personalized models of hearts using 3-D technology—allowing surgeons to catch anomalies an MRI scan might miss and to work out a viable game plan before they get to the operating room.

"We [radiologists] see images in two dimensions and we are trained to figure things out in our head as to what it looks like. The surgeons, when they operate, operate in three dimensions—they see everything in three dimensions, and so they are pretty good at converting our 2-D information itno 3-D, but when we make a model that's 3-D, it's so much easier," says Dr. Parkar. "It's like I can show you a layout of a building with the architectural plans, but if I build a model of the building, it's much easier for you to appreciate what is where. They can figure out exactly where the anatomy is. The surgery is very complicated to begin with, so any help that you can provide is welcome.

But how does it work?

Step one: Take multiple MRI scans of the patient’s heart. 

Step two: Transfer the MRI scans into AutoCAD, a computer-aided drafting program common among engineers. Use the combined scans to create an incredibly detailed and comprehensive 3D image.

Step three: Print the image on a 3D printer located at SLU’s Parks College of Engineering. "We can look at slices of the heart [layers] on screen and even create a 3-D rendering, but having something that surgeons can hold and feel and interact with gives them a much better idea of the spatial relationships, especially for complex anatomy that might have abnormalities," says Dr. King. 


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