Prototyping and 3D Printing of Computed Tomography Images with an Emphasis on Soft Tissues, Especially Muscles, for Teaching Human Anatomy

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Adriano Ferreira da Silva; Mariane Cristina Donato; Mauricio oliveira da Silva; Severino Denicio Gonçalves de Sousa; Thelma Renata Parada Simão; Kátia Simone Kietzer; Edson Aparecido Liberti & Patrick William Frank


The study on cadavers, although considered fundamental in the teaching of human anatomy, is limited in several universities, mainly due to the acquisition and manipulation of cadaveric material. Throughout history, several artificial anatomical models have been used to complement the real anatomical pieces. The present study offers a new alternative: the making of three-dimensional models from Computed Tomography (3D-CT) patient image acquisition. CT images from the USP University Hospital database were used. Patients underwent examinations for reasons other than the present study and were anonymized to maintain confidentiality. The CT slices obtained in thin cross-sections (approximately 1.0 mm thick) were converted into three-dimensional images by a technique named Volume Rendering for visualization of soft tissue and bone. The reconstructions were then converted to an STL (Standard Triangle Language) model and printed through two printers (LONGER LK4 Pro® and Sethi S3®), using PLA and ABS filaments. The 3D impressions of the thigh and leg muscles obtained better visual quality, being able to readily identify the local musculature. The images of the face, heart, and head bones, although easily identifiable, although seemed to present lower quality aesthetic results. This pilot study may be one of the first to perform 3D impressions of images from CT to visualize the musculature in Brazil and may become an additional tool for teaching.

KEY WORDS: 3D printing; Computed tomography; Anatomy; Teaching.

How to cite this article

DA SILVA, A. F.; DONATO, M. C.; DA SILVA, M. O.; DE SOUSA, S. D. G.; SIMÃO, T. R. P.; KIETZER, K. S.; LIBERTI, E. A. & FRANK, P. W. Prototyping and 3D printing of computed tomography images with an emphasis on soft tissues, especially muscles, for teaching human anatomy. Int. J. Morphol., 41(1):73-78, 2023.