Mia Gonzalez Case Study

Good Essays
(CNN)Mia Gonzalez spent the first 3½ years of her life missing out. She had to skip day care and dance classes because she constantly had colds and pneumonia. When Mia could go out and play, she was easily winded and took multiple asthma medications to try to help her breathing.

After about 10 hospital stays, doctors realized that Mia had a malformation in her aorta, the vessel that pumps blood from the heart. The 4-year-old would need an operation to close off the part of her aorta that was putting pressure on her windpipe and making it hard to breathe, swallow and get rid of phlegm when she got a cold.

"We freaked out to go from thinking she had asthma to being told she needed to have open heart surgery," said Katherine Gonzalez, Mia's
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The printer uses images from patients' MRI or CT scan images as a template and lays down layers of rubber or plastic.

Dr. Redmond Burke, director of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, meditated on the model of Mia's heart for a couple of weeks. He showed it to colleagues for their input and even carried it around in his gym bag for quick reference.

Burke finally had the "Aha!" insight. Instead of making an incision on the left side for this type of heart defect, called double aortic arch, he should cut into Mia's chest from the right.

Doctors used a 3-D printer to make a model of Mia Gonzalez's heart.
Doctors used a 3-D printer to make a model of Mia Gonzalez's heart.
"Without the model, I would have been less certain about (operating on Mia) and that would have led me naturally to make a larger incision that could possibly cause more pain and a longer recovery time," Burke said.

Using the model, "there was no doubt, and surgeons hate doubt," he added.

He attributes the model with saving the team and patient about two hours in the operating room because he was able to have a clearer plan to do the
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The printer and software usually cost in the range of $100,000, which is less than a CT scan or MRI setup, Rader said. He predicts that interest in the technology will continue to grow as research shows how using simulated organs leads to better surgical outcomes and shorter operating times.

The models have also been invaluable in helping patients and their families feel confident that they are doing the right thing, said Burke, who operated on Mia.

Seeing the model "made it seem like a simple surgery, it put you at ease," said Gonzalez, Mia's mom. "(Mia) was used to hospitals and IVs, but to explain that you're going to have surgery and be in pain, that is all different," and the model helped put it in perspective, she said.

Four months later, the surgery seems like ancient history to Mia. She has forgotten all about her surgical scar, her mother said, and had little pain. Although she has had some minor colds, none has landed her in the hospital. A month later, she was even able to participate in her dance

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