Pap smear training is commonly conducted using simulators before practicing with humans. Unfortunately, existing simulators do not well simulate the biomechanical properties of pelvic tissues, and this may negatively impact the training outcome. In this study, we used finite element analysis (FEA) to identify a material that most accurately simulates pelvic tissues in terms of biomechanical properties for fabricating gynecologic training simulators. The selected material was then used to fabricate a vagina and cervix model using a hybrid technique of fused deposition modeling and molding to qualitatively confirm the structural integrity of the simulator.
The vagina and cervix were reconstructed in a 3-dimensional feature according to geometrical parameters reported in the literature. The biomechanical compliance of the simulators was investigated by comparing 5 materials—RTV615, Dragon Skin 10, Dragon Skin 30, Dragon Skin FX-Pro, and Ecoflex 00-30—and a pelvic tissue model (control) using 2 FEA modules. The structural mechanics module simulated the insertion and opening of a vaginal speculum, and the (1) horizontal opening of the vagina and peak von Mises stress at the anterior and (2) posterior walls of the vagina were obtained. The explicit dynamics module estimated (1) the fracture stress during punch biopsies and (2) maximum perpendicular deformation of the cervix before break. The most biomechanically compliant material was subsequently used to fabricate the simulator using the hybrid technique.
From the FEA, the horizontal opening of the vagina, peak von Mises stress at the anterior wall of the vagina, peak von Mises stress at the posterior wall of the vagina fracture stress, and maximum perpendicular deformation of the cervix before break were obtained; the results of Dragon Skin 10 and the control were most similar. Therefore, the simulator was fabricated using the material. A qualitative evaluation of the simulator by the naked eye verified its structural integrity.
Of the materials studied, the FEA results showed that Dragon Skin 10 was the most accurate material for simulating pelvic tissues in terms of the biomechanical properties in a gynecologic training simulator. The simulator was also successfully fabricated using the hybrid technique. Further studies may also involve experimental testing to support the simulation results.