Sandrine Debecker March 31, 2016

Interview with Werner Budts, MD, PhD – Cardiologist at University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium

Prof. Werner Budts can be considered one of the primary advocates on the implementation of 3D Printing in cardiology. For quite some time, he has been turning his digital image data into printable 3D models, using his own desktop 3D printer. The Materialise team visited him to discuss his vision about Medical 3D Printing in hospitals.

Disclaimer: 3D-printed anatomical models for diagnostic use created with MIS/Mimics are not commercially available in the US, Australia and Canada.

Watch Prof. Budts explain how he prints patient-specific heart models in 3D in his daily practice

What are the benefits of using 3D Printing in cardiology?

“I think that 3D Printing has three main advantages for cardiologists. First of all, anatomical heart model is useful during team meetings to discuss the heart and vessel anatomy of a specific patient. Especially in multi-disciplinary meetings, it is a big advantage to have a 3D-printed model of a complex case, so that you can look at the anatomy of the heart in detail from different angles, touch it, and discuss the anatomical positions of the vessels.

The anatomical 3D model is also very useful in explaining the planned procedure to your patients. They will understand much better what will happen during the intervention.

The third advantage is that a complex anatomy becomes easier to explain to students. They can touch the 3D model and turn it around, and it gives them much more information than can be provided by 2D or 3D images on a screen. So it is also an important educational tool.”

Has 3D Printing changed your daily practice as a cardiologist?

“3D imaging and printing have definitely changed my daily practice. If I am dealing with a complex anatomy, I reconstruct a 3D model for myself to better figure out the anatomy of the 3D model before surgery or before an interventional procedure. It helps me with my everyday practice, and it might shorten the procedure time, which also means better results and lower complication rates.”

3D printing cardiology: Prof. Werner Budts

How easy or difficult is it to integrate the preparation of the images, and the printing of the models in your workflow?

If you have a series of good quality 2D slices, for example from a CT scan, you dispose of efficient software to build a 3D model, and you have a high-quality printer available, it isn’t that difficult to implement this workflow into your daily practice. I had the opportunity to test Materialise Mimics inPrint software and it has become very easy to create a 3D model; the software guides you step-by-step through the building process and lets you efficiently prepare a 3D printable file.”

Can you describe the process?

“First I start with the segmentation process of the 2D image data, which is done by “thresholding”. In the next step, I focus on the region of interest and delete the unnecessary parts in an intuitive way. Materialise Mimics inPrint does this second step semi-automatically, whereas in other software a manual approach is needed.

Finally, I convert the region of interest into a 3D-printable model. What is crucial is that I can check the quality of the virtual 3D model. This is done by comparing the 3D reconstruction with the 2D images, so that I am able to confirm that the 3D model is right or not. In my opinion, this should be a requirement for every 3D reconstruction software.”

What is the average time to prepare a case?

“Preparing a simple case takes me about 10 minutes. It goes very quickly, almost automatically.”

Which advice would you give to clinicians who wish to get started with 3D Printing?

“I would encourage other physicians to try it at least once. We still obtain a lot of information based on 2D images, but it is time to open the door for 3D imaging and 3D Printing. I admit that it will be difficult to recognize the benefits in the beginning, because most physicians are used to thinking in 2D. However, if you start to use 3D on a more regular basis, try to analyze and make decisions based on the 3D model, and you will acknowledge the added clinical value. This is not only true for physicians, but also for the patients. And the easier it becomes to create a 3D-printed model, the faster you will be able to use this technology in your daily practice.”


Want to learn more? Check out our free THINK 3D Printing - Cardiology webinar series!