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.