Nuclear Medicine Better Calibrated By 3D Printed Kidney Phantoms

Scientists and researchers engaged in the field of nuclear medicine classified under medical imaging carry out trials or studies with the overarching aim of obtaining crystal-clear images while minimizing exposure to radiation. Generally, radiographers who inject an extremely small quantity of radioactive substances known as radiotracers into the bloodstream are at pains to figure out the optimal or appropriate dosage of a typical patient.

The Journal of Nuclear Medicine in its December edition carried a detailed report on the pioneering research by a team of scientists at the University of Wurzburg that focused on the formulation of a cost-effective 3D printing technology. This is another breakthrough in medical technologies using 3D printing.

This innovative 3D printing technique is expected to pave the way for the creation of kidney models of varying shapes and sizes that are patient-specific.

3D printing technology to help in calibrating patient-specific dosage of nuclear medicine

The report published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine elaborated on how 3D printing technology could be effectively exploited to develop clinical models or prototypes of cancer-stricken patients’ kidneys. Creating patient-oriented prototypes would go a long way in helping radiographers to calibrate the exact dosage of nuclear medicine that a particular patient might need.

The lead researcher who monitored the study, Johannes Trans-Gia, Ph.D. strongly felt that “this research shows a way of producing inexpensive models of patient-specific organs/lesions for providing direct and patient-specific calibration constants. This is particularly important for imaging systems suffering from poor spatial resolution and ill-defined quantification, such as SPECT/CT”.

In order to reveal the versatility of 3D data processing technique with respect to SPECT/CT scan, affected kidneys that serve as specimens for radionuclide investigations were taken as samples for the trial. As per design specifications outlined in the MIRD (Medical Internal Radiation Dose) guiding principles, an assortment of single-compartment kidney prototypes ranging from the smallest (for a newborn) to the biggest (for adults), and two others (for 1-year and 5-year olds) were developed. The filing capacity ranged from 8ml (for neonatal) to 123ml (for adults).

The models were created using FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printer as per the MIRD guidelines that were chemically sterile, watertight, and refillable. The researchers thereafter evaluated the nuclide-oriented SPECT/CT calibration features for iodine-131 (I-131), lutetium-177 (Lu-177), and technetium-99m (Tc-99m) in order to find out the preciseness of quantitative imaging for renal dosimetry. Tran-Gia stated that though the trial was based around a specific organ with a single-compartment, the research served as a significant stepping stone with regards to estimating the patient-oriented dosimetry of affected organs, besides kidneys.


Nuclear medicine that essentially implies introducing a plethora of radioactive elements in the body for diagnosing and detecting the extent of malignancy is fraught with risks. Instilling radioactive substances (either intravenously or orally) without stringently monitoring the dosage amount can be damaging to the body. And this is one specialized segment of medical imaging where 3D printing technology can assist radiographers to design clinical simulations of critically affected organs for assessing precise dosages for every patient. University of Wurzburg researchers demonstrated practically the above postulation.

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