Evaluation of Three-Dimensional Printed Materials for Simulation by Computed Tomography and Ultrasound Imaging

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Abstract

Introduction

The use of three-dimensional (3D) printing allows for creation of custom models for clinical care, education, and simulation. Medical imaging, given the significant role it plays in both clinical diagnostics and procedures, remains an important area for such education and simulation. Unfortunately, the materials appropriate for use in simulation involving radiographic or ultrasound imaging remains poorly understood. Therefore, our study was intended to explore the characteristics of readily available 3D printing materials when visualized by computed tomography (CT) and ultrasound.

Methods

Seven 3D printing materials were examined in standard shapes (cube, cylinder, triangular prism) with a selection of printing methods (“open,” “whole,” and “solid” forms). For CT imaging, these objects were suspended in a gelatin matrix molded to match a standard human CT phantom. For ultrasound imaging, the objects were placed in acrylic forms filled with a gelatin matrix. All images were examined using OsiriX software.

Results

Computed tomography imaging revealed marked variation in materials' Hounsfield units as well as patterning and artifact. The Hounsfield unit variations revealed a number of materials suitable for simulation various human tissues. Ultrasound imaging showed echogenicity in all materials, with some variability in shadowing and posterior wall visualization.

Conclusions

We were able to demonstrate the potential utility for 3D printing in the creation of CT and ultrasound simulation models. The similar appearance of materials via ultrasound supports their broad utility for select tissue types, whereas the more variable appearance via CT suggests greater potential for simulating differing tissues but requiring multiple printer technologies to do so.

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