Training of surgical residents and the establishment of innovative surgical techniques require training phantoms that realistically mimic human anatomy. Because animal models have their limitations due to ethical aspects, costs, and the required efforts to set up such training, artificial phantoms are a promising alternative. In the field of image-guided surgery, the challenge lies in developing phantoms that are accurate both anatomically and in terms of imaging properties, while taking the cost factor into account. With respect to the pancreas, animal models are less suitable because their anatomy differs significantly from human anatomy and tissue properties rapidly degrade in the case of ex vivo models. Nevertheless, progress with artificial phantoms has been sparse, although the need for innovative, minimally invasive therapies that require adequate training is steadily increasing. Methods: In the course of this project, an artificial pancreas phantom that is compatible with basic electrosurgical techniques was developed with realistic anatomic and haptic properties, computed tomography, and ultrasound imaging capabilities. This article contains step-by-step instructions for the fabrication of a low-cost pancreatic phantom. The molds are also available for download in a 3D file format. Results: The phantom was successfully validated with regard to its computed tomography and ultrasound properties. As a result, the phantom could be used in combination with a state-of-the-art computer-assisted navigation system. The resection capabilities were positively evaluated in a preclinical study evaluating endoscopic resections using the navigation system. Finally, the durability of the phantom material was tested in a study with multiple needle insertions. Conclusion: The developed phantom represents an open-access and low-cost durable alternative to conventional animal models in the continuous process of surgical training and development of new techniques.
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