Sandrine Debecker October 5, 2016

Patients suffering from Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) can benefit from the insights a 3D-printed model is able to provide their clinicians. Tangible models help the medical team to visualize and understand the complex anatomy of the patient’s heart. A first step in the process of creating a patient-specific model is segmenting the medical images. Dr. Nicholas Byrne et al. from Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in the UK examined the range of several cardiovascular segmentation processes and how much time each of these methods takes. The findings of this first systematic review are published in the JRSM Cardiovascular Disease journal.


Segmenting the different regions of the heart with Materialise Mimics inPrint.

Materialise Mimics software as the standard for CHD models

The authors based themselves on 136 studies that reflected the use of 3D imaging in hospital environments. The eligibility criteria specified that the study had to report on the development of a patient-specific cardiovascular model that was derived from medical images, which was then 3D printed afterwards. Both manual and semi-automatic segmentation methods were taken into account. According to the review, Materialise Mimics proved to be the most frequently used software by far, and was mentioned in 49 separate studies. No other software was mentioned in more than six reports. In 18 records, authors had developed their own algorithm or relied on a procedure developed by a collaborator. The segmentation software was not specified in 63 reports. Due to the complex anatomy of congenital hearts, segmentation can be challenging. The reported segmentation times of the whole heart range between two to three hours.


User-friendly image segmentation software for clinicians

Dr. Byrne and his team concluded that there were still obstacles for the easy integration of 3D visualization in a hospital environment. The authors stated that “image segmentation is frequently laborious and user-dependent due to its reliance on expertise in both congenital heart disease morphology and image processing. Additionally, the hours that can be spent completing a complex segmentation are often incompatible with the workload of clinical staff.”

A cardiologist creating patient-specific 3D-printed models.

A cardiologist creating patient-specific 3D-printed models.

In their opinion, these shortcomings prevent the widespread adoption of patient-specific 3D Printing as a routine decision-making tool in the care of patients with CHD. Well aware of these challenges, Materialise has recently developed a faster and more user-friendly software. Clinicians who want to 3D print anatomical models can now use Mimics inPrint to segment the different chambers of the heart in a few clicks.

Want to easily create anatomical models that support patient-specific treatment? Connect with our experts to discuss how 3D technology can benefit your daily practice.

Read the full review here.