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Doctors Use 3D Printed Heart To Plan Surgery For 4-Year-Old

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A 4-year-old, born with a rare congenital heart disease, has a better chance at a normal life thanks to doctors, and a 3D model printed of her heart.

Adaenelie Gonzalez was born with anomalous pulmonary venous connection, a rare form of congenital heart disease. Basically, her heart wasn't getting the oxygen-filled blood from her lungs that it needed.

The 4-year-old had already undergone two complicated open-heart operations, and multiple cardiac catheterizations, the surgeries have only proven a temporary fix and the condition has continued to challenge Gonzalez's life.

Click here to watch MaryAnn Martinez's report. 

The little girl was experiencing severe breathing problems and was in and out of the hospital.

Doctors told the girls' parents they were out of options.

"I seriously, I kind of lost hope. I didn't think there was anything that was going to be able to help her," Gabriela Alonso, the girl's mother said.

3D Printed Heart
3D Printed Heart model used to prep surgeons for complex surgery on 4-year-old. (Source: CBS4)

But, thanks to technology, Gonzalez has another chance at life.

A team from Miami Children's Hospital had a model of the girl's heart printed, with 3D printing technology, so the surgeon could study the heart model, manipulating the vessels and exploring possible repairs.

Doctors at MCH went to great lengths to map every nerve and artery of the little girl's heart.

"I said that's beautiful, I can plan an operation with this. I think I can save her because I can see what her heart's going to look like when I open her up," said Dr. Redmond Burke.

The lead heart surgeon at MCH said without the 3D heart, Gonzalez would have died.

"The only thing that was keeping her alive was a small vein, that doesn't even appear on this heart model," said Dr. Burke.

The third surgery Gonzalez needed had never been done before, and could have killed her.

"I wasn't going to operate on her based on the data that we already had," said Burke.

All though surgeons had very good images of Gonzalez's heart, Dr. Burke says it wasn't enough.

"It'd be like saying, 'OK, I'm going to teach you how to throw a football by handing you a picture of a football. You can look at it all day long and until you have a football in your hand, you're not going to be able to figure out how to throw it and how to throw a football," said Dr. Burke.

Friday's surgery was a success, and, less than a week later, Gonzalez is already out of bed. Days before the surgery, Gonzalez could barely move.

"To me, it's amazing. I honestly didn't think it was going to be possible. She's been through so much," said Alonso.

Before the surgery, Gonzalez had weeks, maybe months left. After the surgery, Gonzalez is expected to live at least through her teenage years.

The surgery using the 3-D technology was the first of its kind in South Florida, and so successful MCH says they plan to use it again the future.



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