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3D printed ascending aortic simulators with physiological fidelity for surgical simulation


Introduction Three-dimensional (3D) printed multimaterial ascending aortic simulators were created to evaluate the ability of polyjet technology to replicate the distensibility of human aortic tissue when perfused at physiological pressures.

Methods Simulators were developed by computer-aided design and 3D printed with a Connex3 Objet500 printer. Two geometries were compared (straight tube and idealised aortic aneurysm) with two different material variants (TangoPlus pure elastic and TangoPlus with VeroWhite embedded fibres). Under physiological pressure, β Stiffness Index was calculated comparing stiffness between our simulators and human ascending aortas. The simulators’ material properties were verified by tensile testing to measure the stiffness and energy loss of the printed geometries and composition.

Results The simulators’ geometry had no effect on measured β Stiffness Index (p>0.05); however, β Stiffness Index increased significantly in both geometries with the addition of embedded fibres (p<0.001). The simulators with rigid embedded fibres were significantly stiffer than average patient values (41.8±17.0, p<0.001); however, exhibited values that overlapped with the top quartile range of human tissue data suggesting embedding fibres can help replicate pathological human aortic tissue. Biaxial tensile testing showed that fiber-embedded models had significantly higher stiffness and energy loss as compared with models with only elastic material for both tubular and aneurysmal geometries (stiffness: p<0.001; energy loss: p<0.001). The geometry of the aortic simulator did not statistically affect the tensile tested stiffness or energy loss (stiffness: p=0.221; energy loss: p=0.713).

Conclusion We developed dynamic ultrasound-compatible aortic simulators capable of reproducing distensibility of real aortas under physiological pressures. Using 3D printed composites, we are able to tune the stiffness of our simulators which allows us to better represent the stiffness variation seen in human tissue. These models are a step towards achieving better simulator fidelity and have the potential to be effective tools for surgical training.

  • high-fidelity simulation
  • quality improvement
  • resident training
  • simulator design
  • surgical simulation

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplemental information. Data available from primary author: Dr Ali Alakhtar at (ORCD ID: 0000-0001-8326-3719).

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