Low-fidelity, simulation-based psychomotor skills training is a valuable first step in the educational approach to mastering complex procedural skills. We developed a cost-effective bronchial tree simulator based on a human thorax computed tomography scan using rapid-prototyping (3D-print) technology. This randomised, single-blind study evaluated how realistic our 3D-printed simulator would mimic human anatomy compared with commercially available bronchial tree simulators (Laerdal® Airway Management Trainer with Bronchial Tree and AirSim Advance Bronchi, Stavanger, Norway). Thirty experienced anaesthetists and respiratory physicians used a fibreoptic bronchoscope to rate each simulator on a visual analogue scale (VAS) (0 mm = completely unrealistic anatomy, 100 mm = indistinguishable from real patient) for: localisation of the right upper lobe bronchial lumen; placement of a bronchial blocker in the left main bronchus; aspiration of fluid from the right lower lobe; and overall realism. The 3D-printed simulator was rated most realistic for the localisation of the right upper lobe bronchial lumen (p = 0.002), but no differences were found in placement of a bronchial blocker or for aspiration of fluid (p = 0.792 and p = 0.057) compared with using the commercially available simulators. Overall, the 3D-printed simulator was rated most realistic (p = 0.021). Given the substantially lower costs for the 3D-printed simulator (£85 (€100/US$110) compared with > ~ £2000 (€2350/US$2590) for the commercially available simulators), our 3D-printed simulator provides an inexpensive alternative for learning bronchoscopy skills, and offers the possibility of practising procedures on patient-specific models before attempting them in clinical practice.
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