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Imagine a heart the size of a walnut, its arteries and veins as slender as spaghetti. The surrounding nerves and lymphatic vessels are the width of a few strands of hair and as fragile as wet tissue paper.

To repair the smallest hearts, surgeons must navigate this delicate and complex minefield. What's more, because anatomy varies from person to person, no two surgeries are exactly the same – even among patients with the same condition. To plan a surgery, therefore, surgeons want to learn as much as possible about the patient's unique anatomy before setting foot in the operating room.

At the Pediatric Heart Center 3D+ Program, we're harnessing the power of 3D technology to help surgeons do just that. With medical-grade 3D printing equipment and images taken with CT, MRI and ultrasound, we're able to produce accurate, exquisitely detailed models of patients' hearts. Surgeons can hold an exact replica in their hands before surgery, examining every aspect of the particular heart’s structure in order to determine the best approach to repairing it. They can even practice procedures in advance, using models printed with flexible material that can be cut and sewn like human tissue. Or they may use virtual reality and other advanced visualization technologies to see the patient's anatomy in three dimensions while planning the surgery.

UCSF is one of the few hospitals in the U.S. to offer this technology to our surgeons and patients. We also work with providers at other institutions to produce 3D models for their patients.

Although 3D applications are relatively new in medicine, experts believe the specific information they offer may benefit patients in several ways. These include:

  • Lower risk of certain errors during surgery
  • Less likely to need repeat surgeries
  • Shorter procedure times
  • Faster recoveries

These 3D models are also invaluable in helping families understand their child's heart condition and treatment options. In addition, they're used in biomedical research and to train future specialists in congenital heart disease.

The Pediatric Heart Center 3D+ Program is part of the UCSF Center for Advanced 3D+ Technologies, which was founded in 2018 by doctors from the Pediatric Heart Center and the orthopedics and radiology departments. The team includes physicians, a dedicated biomedical engineer and image processing experts.

Support Our Program

The 3D+ Program was established through a generous contribution from an anonymous donor. Our services aren't reimbursed by insurance at this time, and we need your support to continue providing lifesaving care to kids. Make a donation in support of the pediatric 3D+ Program.

Doctor referral required

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    Awards & recognition

    • Ranked among the nation's best in 10 specialties

    • One of the nation's best in cardiology & heart surgery

    Numbered Clinic Cards 1 (9)

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    Cardiac MRI & CT Imaging Program

    Cardiac MRI & CT Imaging Program

    San Franciso / Oakland / Walnut Creek

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    Cardiology Clinic

    Cardiology Clinic

    San Francisco / Oakland / Berkeley / Brentwood / Eureka / Fairfield / Fr...

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    Cardiothoracic Surgery Program

    Cardiothoracic Surgery Program

    San Francisco / Oakland

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    Echocardiography Imaging Program

    Echocardiography Imaging Program

    San Francisco / Oakland / Berkeley / Brentwood / Eureka / Fairfield / Fr...

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    Fetal Cardiovascular Program

    Fetal Cardiovascular Program

    San Francisco / Oakland / Berkeley / Brentwood / Fairfield / Fremont / G...


    Heart Failure & Transplant Program

    Heart Failure & Transplant Program

    San Francisco / Oakland / Modesto


    Interventional Cardiology Program

    Interventional Cardiology Program

    San Francisco / Oakland

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    Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

    Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit

    San Francisco / Oakland

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    Pulmonary Hypertension Program

    Pulmonary Hypertension Program

    San Francisco / Modesto / Oakland

    Support services

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    Chaplains help UCSF patients, families and staff cope with the spiritual and emotional challenges of childhood illness. Learn more.


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    If you're coming to UCSF from outside the U.S., we coordinate your child's appointments and provide other helpful services. Here's how to get started.

    Our stories

    Heart Matter: Dr. Shafkat Anwar

    How 3D tech is allowing doctors to take 'practice swings' before heart operations

    Our research initiatives

    Feeling at home

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