Challenges and limitations of patient-specific vascular phantom fabrication using 3D Polyjet printing

Proc SPIE Int Soc Opt Eng. 2014 Mar 13;9038:90380M. doi: 10.1117/12.2042266.


Additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology offers a great opportunity towards development of patient-specific vascular anatomic models, for medical device testing and physiological condition evaluation. However, the development process is not yet well established and there are various limitations depending on the printing materials, the technology and the printer resolution. Patient-specific neuro-vascular anatomy was acquired from computed tomography angiography and rotational digital subtraction angiography (DSA). The volumes were imported into a Vitrea 3D workstation (Vital Images Inc.) and the vascular lumen of various vessels and pathologies were segmented using a "marching cubes" algorithm. The results were exported as Stereo Lithographic (STL) files and were further processed by smoothing, trimming, and wall extrusion (to add a custom wall to the model). The models were printed using a Polyjet printer, Eden 260V (Objet-Stratasys). To verify the phantom geometry accuracy, the phantom was reimaged using rotational DSA, and the new data was compared with the initial patient data. The most challenging part of the phantom manufacturing was removal of support material. This aspect could be a serious hurdle in building very tortuous phantoms or small vessels. The accuracy of the printed models was very good: distance analysis showed average differences of 120 μm between the patient and the phantom reconstructed volume dimensions. Most errors were due to residual support material left in the lumen of the phantom. Despite the post-printing challenges experienced during the support cleaning, this technology could be a tremendous benefit to medical research such as in device development and testing.

Keywords: 3D printing; CT; Cone-Beam CT; Vascular phantoms; additive manufacturing; patient specific phantoms.