Development of a Tailored Thyroid Gland Phantom for Fine-Needle Aspiration Cytology by Three-Dimensional Printing

J Surg Educ. 2017 Nov-Dec;74(6):1039-1046. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2017.05.012. Epub 2017 Jun 19.


Background: Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) is a challenging and risky procedure for inexperienced clinicians to perform because of the proximity of the thyroid to the jugular veins, carotid arteries, and trachea. A phantom model for transfixion practice would help train clinicians in FNAC.

Objective: To fabricate a tailored phantom with consideration for authenticity of size, touch, feel, and ultrasonographic (US) characteristics.

Methods: A three-dimensional (3D) digital model of the human neck was reconstructed from computed tomography data of a subject. This model was used to create 3D-printed templates for various organs that require US visualization. The templates were injected with polymers that provided similar degrees of ultrasound permeability as the corresponding organs. For fabrication of each organ, the respective molds of organs, blood vessels, thyroid gland, and tumor were injected with the material. The fabricated components were then removed from the templates and colored. Individual components were then positioned in the neck mold, and agar gel was poured in. The complete phantom was then removed from the mold. Thereafter, 45 medical doctors and students performed ultrasound-guided FNAC using the phantom, following which they were queried regarding the value of the phantom.

Results: The structure, US characteristics, and elasticity of the phantom were similar to those of the human subject. In the survey, all 45 participants replied that they found the phantom useful for FNAC training, and 30 medical students professed increased interest in thyroid diseases after using the phantom.

Conclusions: We successfully fabricated a tailored thyroid gland phantom for transfixion practice. As most of the phantom parts are injected in molds fabricated using a 3D printer, they can be easily reproduced once the molds are fabricated. This phantom is expected to serve as an effective and fully tailored training model for practicing thyroid gland transfixion.

Keywords: 3D printing; Medical Knowledge; fine-needle aspiration cytology; phantom; ultrasonographic characteristics.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical / methods
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound-Guided Fine Needle Aspiration*
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Models, Educational
  • Phantoms, Imaging*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*