FORT WORTH -- A new high-tech tool is allowing heart surgeon's in Fort Worth to see a patient's heart, touch it and even practice a surgery before ever going into the operating room.

The 3D lab at Cook Children's hospital uses a 3D printer and sophisticated 3D monitors to give doctors an unprecedented view inside the body.

"We're able to then offer the surgeon a complete 3D replica of what they're going to see when they open the patient up," said Dr. Steve Muyskens, a pediatric cardiologist who is a director of the lab.

Muyskens and his colleagues use an advanced 3D printer to make a life-size model of the heart. The printing process can take up to 24 hours. Once it's complete, surgeons can examine it and even practice procedures on the soft synthetic material.

It has also proven to be a helpful tool to explain heart surgeries to children and their parents.

"[Parents say] it's the first time they've ever really understood what was going on with their child's heart," said Muyskens.

In addition to the 3D printer, the lab is equipped with an advanced 3D monitor. Surgeons can put on 3D glasses and see and interact with a computer model with even more precision.

"We can shorten the time that they're in the operating room. We can shorten the time that the heart is arrested during the procedure," said Muyskens.

It's already being used for young patients, like 1-year-old Ivy Chacon. She was born with an abnormally formed heart. The lab printed a 3D model, giving her surgeon confidence to take on a high-risk procedure with greater precision. The surgery was a success.

"It should hopefully result in her having a relatively normal lifespan, and being able to play sports and do things like other kids," said Muyskens.

A better surgery, a better life thanks to technology that's cutting edge even before they pick up a knife.