Cardiac Imaging Phantom

A 3D printed cardiac imaging phantom to simulate breathing and blood flow for MRI technician training


The Digital Lab 

BCCH Pediatric Radiology Department 

Dr Kenneth Cheung

Type of work

3D Printing

Cardiac Medical Imaging is Challenging

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is crucial for diagnosing various heart conditions, offering detailed insights about a patient's heart. However, the complexity of cardiac structures and the necessary ECG triggering and respiratory navigation create a steep learning curve for radiologists. Training with real patients is challenging due to increased scan time and the need for breath-hold maneuvers, particularly in children. At BC Children’s Hospital, there is a shortage of pediatric cardiac MRI experts, increasing wait times for patients. To address this, we have partnered with the Department of Radiology at BCCH to develop a 3D printed cardiac MRI phantom with respiratory simulation for training radiologists in a stress-free environment.

Research & Design

Developing a High Quality Training Tool

To develop the cardiac MRI phantom, we began by utilizing cardiac images of a healthy heart. Advanced modeling software was employed to segment the blood pool, which allowed us to create an accurate shell around it. The phantom was designed in modular pieces to ensure printability and ease of assembly. These modular components were then connected together to form the complete heart model.

The heart model was secured within a specially manufactured base that incorporated two bottles filled with contrast, simulating the location of a patient's arms. Additionally, a third bottle was attached to an artificial lung to replicate the motion of the patient's diaphragm. This setup enabled realistic simulation of respiratory movements during MRI scans.

Furthermore, the heart was designed with inlets and outlets at the inferior and superior vena cava, as well as the descending aorta. These features allowed for the injection of contrast agents and the simulation of blood flow, enhancing the realism and functionality of the phantom. This innovative design provides a comprehensive training tool for radiology technicians and radiologists, allowing them to practice and refine their skills in a controlled, stress-free environment.

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Improved Training Opportunities for Radiologists

The final product, a 3D printed cardiac MRI phantom with simulated breathing and blood flow, has significantly improved training for MRI technicians and radiologists. Early user testing at BC Children's Hospital indicates that the phantom provides a highly realistic training experience, enhancing users' understanding of cardiac anatomy and their ability to interpret pediatric heart MRIs. The main impact lies in offering a stress-free environment for learning different imaging techniques without the need for real patients. Metrics show a reduction in training time and improved accuracy in diagnosis post-training, addressing the shortage of pediatric cardiac MRI experts and ultimately reducing patient wait times.

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