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Doctors use 3-D printed hearts to test procedures before surgery

USF Health and Tampa General Hospital are utilizing anatomically correct 3-D printing to revolutionize education and surgery.

TAMPA, Fla. — Surgeons testing out a procedure before they perform it -- that's not the future of medicine in the Tampa Bay area, it's the present. 

The department of radiology at USF Health has a 3-D printing lab that creates perfect replicas of patients’ organs and body parts. 

Dr. Fadi Matar has been working as an interventional cardiologist at Tampa General for more than 25 years. Now, he won't work on a complex case, unless he has a 3-D print. 

"And the good thing about 3-D modeling is you can actually apply devices that you normally use in humans, you can apply them on a true, anatomical representation of the heart and see how they interact with other structures," said Dr. Fadi Matar, an interventional cardiologist at Tampa General Hospital.

Dr. Matar recently received a print of a current patient with a hole in his heart. He was able to test out his procedure on the heart, without bringing the patient in.

After executing the procedure on the 3-D model, Dr. Matar realized it would not work.

"So that's why we decided to change our strategy, based on 3-D modeling," Dr. Matar explained.

This helped Matar, and the patient, avoid an unnecessary procedure and all of the costs and risks that come with it.

"We have shown that we can reduce operating time. We can reduce cost and the risk of error, and just time under anesthesia. Things like that. These are all benefits to that patient and ultimately to the physician partners that we work with," explained Summer Decker the director of 3-D clinical applications at USF Health. 

This 3-D printing technology can make a big difference for anyone who steps through Tampa General's doors. That's not only because it improves patient care but also because it attracts top-notch hospital talent.

"We have a residency program, and we've actually attracted a number of really high-quality residents because of the 3-D team here. We are nationally known, so people are applying to our program, especially to know more on 3-D technologies," Decker said.

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