Lifelike 3D-printed hearts are helping train surgeons

Researchers at the Nottingham Trent University have successfully created a 3D-printed heart.


Led by Richard Arm, the team has used silicone gel to mimic the texture of a real heart and its inner workings. Unlike previous efforts to 3D print prosthetic organs, this project has developed one that is “as close as you can get” to the real organ.

CT scans of real hearts established the density of all the different parts of the organ and, using that data, the 3D printer produced for the heart. Prior to the scientists newfound solution, cardiothoracic surgery relied solely on basic plastic models, which unfortunately don’t provide a realistic learning experience. Now, these 3D-printed hearts will offer near exact replicas of those found within human body.

“Students would be able to make incisions to experience how it would feel and see what the inside of the heart looks like.” The study even looked at plans to pump artificial blood through the prosthetic organ to enhance the realism of a mock operation.


“This study shows how it’s possible to replicate the human heart, inside and out, and make it so realistic that it could literally be operated on by trainee surgeons,” Arm adds.

The university’s endeavor is the first step in establishing a near lifelike system for researchers and students to use to gain the most precise experience possible.

“This could be a real benefit to way in which we educate students, by providing them with more realistic experiences before they go into live theatre,” said Professor Michael Vloeberghs of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the Maker Movement has used Atmel powered 3D printers, such as MakerBot and RepRap, for some time now. However, 3D printing recently entered a new and exciting stage in the medical world —  ranging from “growing” cartilage to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injuries to orthopedic implants for patients with fractured pelvises.

2 thoughts on “Lifelike 3D-printed hearts are helping train surgeons

  1. Pingback: Rewind: A look back at the top 3D printing stories of 2014 | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: Doctors create a trachea using a MakerBot 3D printer | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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