NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — 3-D printers are being used to make everything from toys to tools.

But what about internal organs? In the labs of the Ohio State College of Engineering, researchers are able to simulate exactly what happens in a specific patient’s heart.

It’s a state-of-the-art model that allows experts to predict common complications in aortic valve surgeries, such as leaks, coronary blockages, and blood clots.

It gives patients a greater chance for a full recovery.

“I trusted my physician and I felt like they were knew what they were doing,” artificial valve recipient Bernice Belcher said. She’s thriving after her procedure, thanks to a unique collaboration between doctors and engineers prior to surgery.

Experts at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center used CT scans to create an exact 3-D printed replica of Bernice’s aorta. They connected it to a heart simulator and reproduced the conditions of her heart and blood flow.

“The ability to try and predict which valve will rest in there the most effectively, have the least amount of leak, and not impinge upon adjacent structures is critical,” Dr. Scott Lilly said.

Doctors and engineers then evaluate the results to confidently choose the best approach, valve, and placement for the patient — avoiding complications that can arise after the valve is implanted.

“This 3-D reconstruction modeling has directly informed the way we attack some procedures,” Dr. Lilly said.

By doing the experiments, Dr. Prasad Dasi of the engineering college says they’re able to come up with the best possible scenario for the patient.

The 3-D modeling is important because every patient’s heart is different, and their valves are going bad in different ways. Knowing all of that ahead of time and which valves are best to fix the problem means fewer surprises for the surgeon and better overall results.

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