Congenital heart disease, the most common type of birth defect, is a three-dimensional (3D) structural problem. Conventional medical imaging is usually limited to two-dimensions (2D). In complex types of congenital heart disease, advanced technologies are required to understand the heart in 3D. At Children’s National Hospital, the 3D Cardiac Visualization Laboratory is the specialized group called in for these requests. We have the 3D software, 3D printers and personnel necessary to make a 3D model of the heart, using imaging datasets such as 3D echocardiography and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These 3D models can be used to understand complex heart anatomies. 3D heart models can be used for medical training, surgical planning, patient communication or computational simulation.

The 3D Cardiac Visualization Laboratory began at Children’s National in 2012. Since then, the multidisciplinary team of engineers, surgeons and cardiologists has expanded to include eight members and multiple mentees. The team has a cohesive workflow in the production of 3D heart models, as well as a diverse portfolio of research projects aimed at:

  • Developing technology surrounding 3D printed and digital display, leveraging the outstanding cross-sectional congenital heart disease imaging program at Children’s National
  • Assessing the clinical impact of these models
  • Assessing the educational value of these models in trainees, staff, parents and patients

Watch a time-lapse video of the construction of a 3D printed heart model at Children's National.

3D Printer Timelapse

Applied Biomedical Engineering in Pediatric Cardiology

With research projects such as 3D visualization, virtual reality, computational fluid dynamics and tissue engineering, our lab collaborates with engineers around the Washington, D.C., area, including engineering departments from the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington University. Our work is focused on the application of biomedical engineering technologies that advance the field of pediatric cardiology and allow for better clinical outcomes of congenital heart disease.