Realization of Open Software Chain for 3D Modeling and Printing of Organs in Simulation Centers: Example of Renal Pelvis Reconstruction

J Surg Educ. 2021 Jan-Feb;78(1):232-244. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.06.035. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Objective: Three-dimensional (3D) printing has many uses in healthcare such as in surgical training. It is becoming an interesting tool finding new pedagogical purposes in medical simulation. In this study, using a process consisting of 3D modeling, a simulator dedicated to pyeloplasty was designed, manufactured, and evaluated by experts.

Design: With the aid of open-source software and computer-aided design software, 3D models of a renal parenchyma, a renal pelvis and a ureter were created. This renal apparatus was processed and crafted with additive manufacturing using soft polymer materials. Polyvinyl alcohol material was used to print the components in order to make them dissectible and to evaluate their use in surgical teaching.

Setting and participants: Seven expert surgeons evaluated the model by performing a pyeloplasty sequence established in a previous work. An evaluation grid with 8 items related to surgical movement was rated on a 5-point Likert scale to assess how similar working with the model was to actual surgery.

Results: Three items were rated with a score greater than or equal to 4 (Needle penetration, Thread-sliding, and Cutting Strength). Suture strength was rated with a score above 3.5 for both renal pelvis and ureter, whereas elasticity was rated below 3. Handling and mobility properties were rated above 3 for the renal pelvis and below 3 for the ureter. The cost of the unit was $0.30 per renal unit. The primary difference identified was a difference in elongation between polyvinyl alcohol material and real biological tissue.

Conclusions: It is feasible to generate and print a low cost upper urinary tract model from patient data imagery using environmentally friendly products that can be used effectively in surgical training. The simulator has been able to reproduce sensations related to surgical movements for a low cost. Hereafter, research into the pedagogical benefits provided to students, and through them, patients, should be performed. 3D printing models can offer new opportunities for healthcare simulation specific to different surgical fields.

Keywords: additive manufacturing; laparoscopy; medical education; simulation; surgery; urological surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Kidney Pelvis / surgery
  • Models, Anatomic*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional
  • Software