3-D print model helps doctors fix boy's heart defect

Ethan Bradley born with congenital heart defect known as heterotaxy syndrome

By Kirstin O’Connor - Reporter/Anchor

Nearly one out of every 100 babies is born with congenital heart defects. Some can be life-threatening.

Ethan Bradley, 10,  has been happily riding his bicycle a year after a life-changing heart surgery.

When Ethan's mother, Katrina Bradley, was pregnant, doctors said her son would likely not survive birth.

“We didn’t go out and buy all the cute little boy clothes and toys because the chance of him actually coming home was so slim,” said Katrina Bradley.

Ethan was born with a congenital heart defect known as heterotaxy syndrome. In addition to heart defects, heterotaxy caused organs such as the intestines, stomach, liver, and lungs to be in abnormal places in the abdomen and chest.

"We needed some way of getting more blood flow to his lungs and doing that safely in a heart that had nothing right about it,” said Dr. Kenneth Zahka, pediatric cardiologist, Cleveland Clinic.

Doctors used state-of-the-art imaging to print a 3D replica of Ethan's heart. Being able to see inside the structure allowed doctors to create a surgical plan to fix Ethan's heart.

“The gist of the operation is rerouting on the inside to allow the blue blood to go to the lungs, that’s where it’s supposed to go, and the pink blood to come out of the heart to the body into the aorta,” said Dr. Hani Najm , chair of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, Cleveland Clinic.

“They cut open my chest and then fixed my heart,” Ethan Bradley said.

The surgery was a success and Ethan's oxygen levels jumped to 95 percent, allowing him to walk.

Three-dimensional models of patients’ organs are being used to create better surgical plans for each individual’s anatomy. Some researchers are taking it a step further and using human cells as layering material.

One day this model may allow scientists to create living, functional organs in a laboratory. For now, patients like Ethan have successful surgeries as a result of the 3D models.

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