Johannes Maier, Maximilian Weiherer, Michaela Huber, Christoph Palm
Background: For surgical fixation of bone fractures of the human hand, so-called Kirschner-wires (K-wires) are drilled through bone fragments. Due to the minimally invasive drilling procedures without a view of risk structures like vessels and nerves, a thorough training of young surgeons is necessary. For the development of a virtual reality (VR) based training system, a three-dimensional (3D) printed phantom hand is required. To ensure an intuitive operation, this phantom hand has to be realistic in both, its position relative to the driller as well as in its haptic features. The softest 3D printing material available on the market, however, is too hard to imitate human soft tissue. Therefore, a support-material (SUP) filled metamaterial is used to soften the raw material. Realistic haptic features are important to palpate protrusions of the bone to determine the drilling starting point and angle. An optical real-time tracking is used to transfer position and rotation to the training system.
Methods: A metamaterial already developed in previous work is further improved by use of a new unit cell. Thus, the amount of SUP within the volume can be increased and the tissue is softened further. In addition, the human anatomy is transferred to the entire hand model. A subcutaneous fat layer and penetration of air through pores into the volume simulate shiftability of skin layers. For optical tracking, a rotationally symmetrical marker attached to the phantom hand with corresponding reference marker is developed. In order to ensure trouble-free position transmission, various types of marker point applications are tested.
Results: Several cuboid and forearm sample prints lead to a final 30 centimeter long hand model. The whole haptic phantom could be printed faultless within about 17 hours. The metamaterial consisting of the new unit cell results in an increased SUP share of 4.32%. Validated by an expert surgeon study, this allows in combination with a displacement of the uppermost skin layer a good palpability of the bones. Tracking of the hand marker in dodecahedron design works trouble-free in conjunction with a reference marker attached to the worktop of the training system.
Conclusions: In this work, an optically tracked and haptically correct phantom hand was developed using dual-material 3D printing, which can be easily integrated into a surgical training system.