Various 3D printed materials mimic bone ultrasonographically: 3D printed models of the equine cervical articular process joints as a simulator for ultrasound guided intra-articular injections

Introduction

In the equine racehorse industry, reduced athletic performance due to joint injury and lameness has been extensively reviewed. Intra-articular injections of glucocorticoids are routinely used to relieve pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. Intra-articular injections of pharmaceutical agents require practice for precise needle placement and to minimize complications. Training on simulators or models is a viable alternative for developing these technical skills. The purpose of this study was to compare the qualitative ultrasonographic characteristics of three-dimensional (3D) printed models of equine cervical articular process joints to that of a dissected equine cervical spine (gold standard).

Methods

A randomized complete block design study was conducted in which a total of thirteen cervical articular process joint models were printed using several materials, printers, and printing technologies. Ultrasound video clips with the models immersed in water were recorded. Two board certified veterinary radiologists and three veterinary radiology residents reviewed the videos and responded to a survey assessing and comparing the ultrasonographic characteristics of the 3D printed models to those of the gold standard.

Results

Six 3D printed models had ultrasonographic characteristics similar to the gold standard. These six models were (material, printer, printing technology): nylon PA 12, EOS Formiga P100, selective laser sintering (P = 0.99); Onyx nylon with chopped carbon fiber, Markforged Onyx Two, fused deposition modeling (P = 0.48); polycarbonate, Ultimaker 3, fused deposition modeling (P = 0.28); gypsum, ProJet CJP 660 Pro, ColorJet Printing (P = 0.28); polylactic acid, Prusa I3, fused deposition modeling (P = 0.23); and high temperature V1 resin, Form 2, stereolithography (P = 0.22).

Conclusion

When assessed in water, it is possible to replicate the qualitative ultrasonographic characteristics of bone using three dimensional printed models made by combining different materials, printing technologies, and printers. However, not all models share similar qualitative ultrasonographic characteristics with bone. We suggest that the aforementioned six models be used as proxy for simulating bones or joints for use with ultrasound. In order to replicate the resistance and acoustic window provided by soft tissues, further work testing the ability of these models to withstand embedding in material such as ballistic gelatin is required.