The development of a flexible heart model for simulation-based training

Jelle Man, Jos Maessen, Peyman Sardari Nia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Simulation-based training has shown to be effective in training new surgical skills. The objective of this study is to develop a flexible 3-dimensional (3D)-printed heart model that can serve as a foundation for the simulation of multiple cardiovascular procedures.

METHODS: Using a pre-existing digital heart model, 3D transoesophageal echocardiography scans and a thoracic CT scan, a full volume new heart model was developed. The valves were removed from this model, and the internal structures were remodelled to make way for insertable patient-specific structures. Groves at the location of the coronaries were created using extrusion tools in a computer-modelling program. The heart was hollowed to create a more flexible model. A suitable material and thickness was determined using prior test prints. An aortic root and valve was built by segmenting the root from a thoracic CT scan and a valve from a transoesophageal echocardiogram. Segmentations were smoothed, small holes in the valves were filled and surrounding structures were removed to make the objects suitable for 3D printing.

RESULTS: A hollow 3D-printed heart model with the wall thicknesses of 1.5 mm and spaces to insert coronary arteries, valves and aortic roots in various sizes was successfully printed in flexible material.

CONCLUSIONS: A flexible 3D-printed model of the heart was developed onto which patient-specific cardiac structures can be attached to simulate multiple procedures. This model can be used as a platform for surgical simulation of various cardiovascular procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-187
Number of pages6
JournalInteractive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Flexible
  • Heart
  • Model
  • Simulation
  • Surgical


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