By integrating two common imaging techniques, experts from Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital have produced a three-dimensional anatomic model of a patient’s heart. The hybrid prototype could provide better diagnostic capability and improved interventional and surgical planning.

The 3D model printing of patients’ hearts provides enhanced visualization of individual cardiac structures and characteristics. The researchers used computed tomography (CT) and three-dimensional transesophageal echocardiography (3DTEE) to complete the hybrid prototype. A proof-of-concept study authored by the Spectrum Health experts also demonstrated the possibility of using the techniques in combination with a third tool – magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The team from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital employed specialized software to register images from the two imaging modalities to selectively integrate datasets to produce an accurate anatomic model of the heart. The result creates more detailed and anatomically accurate 3D renderings and printed models.

According to Joseph Vettukattil, MD, each imaging tool has different strengths. CT, for example, enhances visualization of the outside anatomy of the heart; MRI is superior to other imaging techniques for measuring the interior of the heart, its ventricles, and its muscular tissue; and 3DTEE provides the best visualization of valve anatomy.

Although further research is required, the hybrid model will help doctors determine whether a heart condition can be treated via transcatheter route or a surgical intervention.