Construction of realistic phantoms from patient images and a commercial three-dimensional printer

Shuai Leng, Baiyu Chen, Thomas Vrieze, Joel Kuhlmann, Lifeng Yu, Amy Alexander, Jane Matsumoto, Jonathan Morris, Cynthia H. McCollough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to use three-dimensional (3-D) printing techniques to construct liver and brain phantoms having realistic pathologies, anatomic structures, and heterogeneous backgrounds. Patient liver and head computed tomography (CT) images were segmented into tissue, vessels, liver lesion, white and gray matter, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Stereolithography files of each object were created and imported into a commercial 3-D printer. Printing materials were assigned to each object after test scans, which showed that the printing materials had CT numbers ranging from 70 to 121 HU at 120 kV. Printed phantoms were scanned on a CT scanner and images were evaluated. CT images of the liver phantom had measured CT numbers of 77.8 and 96.6 HU for the lesion and background, and 137.5 to 428.4 HU for the vessels channels, which were filled with iodine solutions. The difference in CT numbers between lesions and background (18.8 HU) was representative of the low-contrast values needed for optimization tasks. The liver phantom background was evaluated with Haralick features and showed similar texture between patient and phantom images. CT images of the brain phantom had CT numbers of 125, 134, and 108 HU for white matter, gray matter, and CSF, respectively. The CT number differences were similar to those in patient images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number033501
JournalJournal of Medical Imaging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • brain
  • computed tomography
  • image quality
  • liver
  • phantom
  • three-dimensional printer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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