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3-D printed heart helps save baby's life

A weeks-old baby is alive today thanks, in part, to a 3-D printed heart.

3D printed heart at the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
3D printed heart at the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

Doctors and medical staff at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital used 3-D printing technology to produce a 3-D replica of the child's heart, which had a "very complex, unique malformation" from birth, Dr. Emile Bacha, a physician who operated on the boy, told CNBC on Wednesday.

The boy's heart had "lots of holes" and "unique geography," he said.

Appearing on "Squawk on the Street," Bacha said the 3-D printed heart allowed doctors to better plan and simplify the procedure.

A 3D printed heart at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
A 3D printed heart at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

"In the past, you had to actually discover everything at surgery. You go to surgery. Stop the heart. Ppen the heart. Look inside and then decide what to do," he said.

"With this technology ... we are able to actually look at the heart in advance and plan our surgery, and we can actually even cut those models and look inside the heart so that we can actually know beforehand, have an idea of what we're going to do."

The advantage of 3-D printing technology "made a huge difference" for this baby, Bacha said, because he went from a limited life span to a normal life expectancy. The technology also reduced the number of surgeries from three or four operations to just one, he added.

A 3D printed heart a New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital
A 3D printed heart a New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

The 3-D printed model cost "a few thousand dollars," but Bacha thinks the price will probably come down over time, as the medical community adopts the advancement in surgery.

"I do think that this is something that we're not going to do without," he said.