Thankful for 3D Printing

By: HenryFordTV

People think about what to be thankful for; this year, there are a lot of people, not just in the medical profession, not just Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, thankful for the health and wellness that we're all really thinking about every day, not just one day of the year. Dr. Frank McGeorge takes us on a bit of an adventure. One thing he's thankful for is how a new contraption, something called a 3D printer, is helping all of us think about how to stay well this holiday season. You know, one benefit of new treatments is that they are minimally invasive. The problem is, that means that doctors are doing things through tiny incisions without really being able to see the areas that they're working on directly.

So the answer? Print the body part, like this heart piece, and work on it so there is no guesswork on the real patient. 86-year-old Hoyt Hipple developed a common condition called atrial fibrillation after open heart surgery in 1997. That fibrillation required me to take blood thinners so that I didn't have blood clots form. Unfortunately, he recently developed bleeding problems from the blood thinners. So they took me off of blood thinners about a month and a half ago. But without the blood thinners? I had a stroke, and then they told me I had to be on blood thinners. Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, he looked for a solution to his atrial fibrillation that would avoid blood thinners.

Mr. Hipple is from Grafton, Wisconsin -- that's 16 miles north of Milwaukee -- but the solution he found was at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, with cardiologist Dr. William O'Neill. If he doesn't have the blood thinners, he could have a stroke; if he takes the blood thinners, he could have a severe bleeding problem. The answer: block the area where clots form.

So this is actually a 3D model of Mr. Hipple's heart, and this is actually the left atrial appendage right there, and this is the area where the blood clots form. But what they do, they go in and they close off part of the heart so that the blood doesn't get in there and clot. And each case needs a custom approach developed at the Henry Ford Hospital Innovation Institute.

Thankful for 3D Printing

Bob Riney is the Chief Operating Officer for the Henry Ford Health System. In this season of thanksgiving we're grateful for a lot of things, and one of them is this Innovation Institute and the 3D printing aspect that we have brought into medicine. And so what we're doing is figuring out ways of closing the appendage and every appendage is different, it's like a fingerprint.

And so this is actually a 3D reconstruction, and we can take a device -- this is the ASD device that we use --- and we can see if it will fit, how it will fit, to make sure that it would fit properly. They made a model of my heart, a little model about this big around, and then they practiced with that. That's amazing. I don't know how they do it but it's amazing.

It's all non-invasive, there's no cutting there's just a catheter that goes into the heart. And after a brief recovery, Mr. Hipple is ready to head back to Wisconsin. Oh, I feel good, because I sure didn't want to live with the threat of a stroke. Now in case you wondered, the atrial appendage that's being blocked off actually has no real purpose in the heart.

It's kind of like an appendix. So blocking it off has no downside and in people with atrial fibrillation who cannot tolerate blood thinners it's got nothing but upside. Back to you.

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