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Acad Radiol. 2016 Sep;23(9):1183-9. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2016.04.010. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

Understanding Spatially Complex Segmental and Branch Anatomy Using 3D Printing: Liver, Lung, Prostate, Coronary Arteries, and Circle of Willis.

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Department of Radiology, George Washington University Hospital, 900 23rd St. NW, Suite G2092, Washington, D C 20037. Electronic address:
Department of Radiology, George Washington University Hospital, 900 23rd St. NW, Suite G2092, Washington, D C 20037.



Three-dimensional (3D) manufacturing is shaping personalized medicine, in which radiologists can play a significant role, be it as consultants to surgeons for surgical planning or by creating powerful visual aids for communicating with patients, physicians, and trainees. This report illustrates the steps in development of custom 3D models that enhance the understanding of complex anatomy.


We graphically designed 3D meshes or modified imported data from cross-sectional imaging to develop physical models targeted specifically for teaching complex segmental and branch anatomy. The 3D printing itself is easily accessible through online commercial services, and the models are made of polyamide or gypsum.


Anatomic models of the liver, lungs, prostate, coronary arteries, and the Circle of Willis were created. These models have advantages that include customizable detail, relative low cost, full control of design focusing on subsegments, color-coding potential, and the utilization of cross-sectional imaging combined with graphic design.


Radiologists have an opportunity to serve as leaders in medical education and clinical care with 3D printed models that provide beneficial interaction with patients, clinicians, and trainees across all specialties by proactively taking on the educator's role. Complex models can be developed to show normal anatomy or common pathology for medical educational purposes. There is a need for randomized trials, which radiologists can design, to demonstrate the utility and effectiveness of 3D printed models for teaching simple and complex anatomy, simulating interventions, measuring patient satisfaction, and improving clinical care.


3D model; 3D printing; anatomy; education; radiology

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