Center will serve all 13 BJC hospitals plus Washington University and Goldfarb School of Nursing

St. Louis Children’s Hospital, one of the premier children's hospitals in the United States, today opened a new medical 3D printing center at the BJC Institute of Health at Washington University School of Medicine (425 South Euclid Avenue, Suite 4301), located next to St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) in the Central West End. St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation provided the funds. 

The new, centralized center has three 3D printing machines, enabling doctors to create highly detailed, lifelike models of human organs and tissues to help plan surgeries, counsel patients and their families, and educate medical trainees. The printing center will provide services to all 13 BJC hospitals, as well as Washington University and Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College. BJC HealthCare has been using 3D surgical models through Washington University and models made by an outside company. The in-house center will expedite the turnaround time for models, increase access for providers to cutting-edge technology and enable innovations in patient care.

“This will be an in-house resource for both pediatric and adult patient care for all 13 BJC hospitals,” said Robert Wesley, 3D printing engineer for the new center. “Our system is electronic, so we will be able to receive an imaging study of any patient instantly. The 3D printing machines will allow us to build highly realistic, patient-specific anatomic models with consistent color results and lifelike textures.”

3D models can be very helpful in showing patients what their surgery and treatment options are, and doctors can bring the models to patient and family consultations to explain a disease or show where an injury or congenital defect is and how it can be repaired. 3D modeling can also be especially helpful in high-risk patients with life-threatening conditions. For a patient needing heart surgery, a 3D model of a patient’s whole chest can be created and brought into the operating room, if needed. With this model, the surgeon can go through all steps of the procedure ahead of time.

“We can print a whole heart to look exactly as it would in the patient’s chest, including blood vessels and critical surrounding structures,” said Dr. Shafkat Anwar, pediatric cardiologist at St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center and co-director of the 3D printing center. “Having that information in advance helps us understand the disease process better, reduces time spent in the operating room, and can lead to better outcomes for patients.”

To create a 3D model, the lab’s printers will be programmed with image data from a patient’s medical images, usually an MRI or CT scan. The machine then uses that information to put down layer after layer of material until the model is complete. The molds can be printed with transparent materials or in color, they can be sterilized for the operating room, and can be used for surgical simulation or “practice surgery” prior to the procedure. They are also used as educational tools for trainees in explaining complex medical cases. Being able to hold a model and view the diagnosis of disease from different angles can help doctors, patients, and trainees alike clearly understand a complex lesion or the steps involved in a surgery.

The leadership of the 3D Printing Center is a BJC-Wash U collaboration, composed of Co-Directors Dr. Shafkat Anwar, pediatric cardiologist; Dr. Eric Eutsler, radiologist atSLCH and Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology; Dr. Kamlesh Patel, pediatric plastic surgeon at SLCH and Washington University School of Medicine and Christine Pavlak, director of Clinical Labs, Radiology and Supply Distribution at SLCH. The Executive Sponsors are Rick Majzun, vice president of operations for SLCH, and vice president, women & infants for Barnes-Jewish Hospital and SLCH and Dr. Tim Eberlein, chair of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. 

BJC Healthcare is one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States, and Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital are the adult and pediatric teaching hospitals of Washington University School of Medicine. Together, these institutions are among the world’s leading medical research, teaching, and patient care institutions in the world.

For more information, call 314-273-2508.


St. Louis Children’s Hospital has provided specialized care for children for more than 130 years. US News & World Report ranks St. Louis Children’s among the best pediatric hospitals in the nation. In 2015 the hospital again received the Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation’s highest honor for nursing excellence. St. Louis Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine, one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation. The hospital is a member of BJC HealthCare. For more information, visit, or find us on Facebook and @STLChildrens on Twitter.