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Creating a Kidney Free and Downloadable Models Using the Latest Medical 3D Printing Technologies

Angel Sosa


Creating a Kidney Free and Downloadable Models Using the Latest Medical 3D Printing Technologies

At embodi3D®, we see the utility of creating a kidney model using 3D printing technologies as a way to better understand this complex and utterly vital organ. Through CT-converted STL files, researchers, students, and medical practitioners can examine the kidney in 3D form and in a state that is more natural. 


An average kidney has a peripheral cortex, central medulla, vessels, urothelial structures, and renal sinus fat. All of these features work together to properly eliminate toxins from the body, ensuring excess creatinine and urea are expelled and not concentrated in the bloodstream. 


The kidney is crucial to human health. Visualize, for a moment, the human body as a city; the veins, the highway transporting nutrients; the brain, the urban planners, and of course, the kidneys would be the waste management department. Kidneys don't have a glorious role, but like a city waste department, you quickly realize something is amiss when they aren't doing their official duties. 


Creating kidney model (graphic illustration)


Kidneys work by regulating the amount of water retained in the body. The amount of water retained is based on the body's hydration needs and the kidneys' need to expel toxins, namely urea and creatinine. When a kidney doesn't operate as it should, these toxins can build up in the bloodstream, leading to a range of health complications. A common blood test can reveal these byproducts. 


Currently, there is no cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), only methods to slow its progression and provide some relief through dialysis and kidney transplants, respectively. A recent investigative inquiry into the impact of 3D-printed pelvicalyceal system models on patient information prior to surgeries related to percutaneous nephrolithotripsy found that it is highly feasible to generate models of the pelvicalyceal, and also helps patients to better understand the disease and the surgical process in treating it. Although 3D-printed models of the kidney continue to be used in patient education and as reference tools during complex surgical procedures.  Although, more recently, a young patient in the United Kingdom received a kidney transplant during a procedure aided by a 3D-printed reference model. 



The last 5 to 10 years have seen dramatic changes in the ability of CT scanners to image faster with greater resolution. Using this new technology, CT has aided in the evaluation of urinary lithiasis, renal masses, and adrenal lesions.


It's an exciting time in medical 3D printing and we would like you to be a part of it. Register on embodi3D® and take advantage of the many conversion algorithms registered users can utilize.  



#1. Left kidney in an STL (3D Printer-Ready File)

Dr. Mike uploads this amazing 3d model of the left kidney. The kidneys are generally symmetric in size and appearance, but the left kidney may also be slightly longer than the right kidney. The kidneys are usually larger in male patients and should reach full size by the late teens. The normal range of the kidney size is variable based on patient height with median length 11 cm, and most are within a range of 9.8 to 12.3 cm.





#2. 3D Model of a Right Renal Cortex (Kidney) Processed Using 3D Slicer

The cortical thickness of the kidneys is usually symmetric. The mean thickness of the cortex is approximately 10 mm, based on sonographic


#3. 3D Model of the Left Kidney with Hydronephrosis

Hydronephrosis is a dilatation of collecting system. demonstrate the full length of the ureters and pyelocaliectasis. 

○ Mild: Mild dilatation of renal pelvis ± dilatation of calyces.
○ Moderate: Moderate dilatation of renal pelvis and dilatation of calyces.
○ Severe: Severe dilatation of renal pelvis and calyces and parenchymal thinning.

Thank you valchanov for this excellent example.




#4. CT Angiogram of Normal Kidneys (from a Whole-Body CTA)

When the cortex has enhanced but the medulla is nearly unenhanced, the nephrographic phase. We can see the renal vessels with exquisite detail. Beyond the renal capsule is the perinephric space, which contains fat and thin fibrous septations. The perinephric fat is contained within Gerota’s fascia. Gerota’s fascia also surrounds the adrenal, which is separated from the kidney by a transverse septum. The anterior and posterior renal fascias separate the kidney and adrenal from other adjacent spaces. If the fascia becomes thickened due to fluid or other causes, it may be visible.





#5. Another CT Angiogram of Normal Kidneys (from a Whole-Body CTA) in a Coronal View

This example of CTA shows normal kidneys. When the cortex and medulla are more similarly enhanced, and the urographic or excretory phase. Because of its high contrast sensitivity, CT allows differentiation of tissues with much less attenuation difference than can be identified with radiography; thus, there is greater sensitivity for detection of small or faint calcifications than is possible with radiography.



#6. 3D Model of the Great Abdominal Vessels

In this excellent 3D model we can see the great vessels of the abdomen. The kidneys are located within the retroperitoneal space to each side of the vertebral bodies at the level of T10-L2. The left kidney is often located slightly more cranial than the right kidney. Each kidney is supplied by one or more renal arteries, which originate from the aorta below the level of the superior mesenteric artery or rarely from the iliac arteries. Single bilateral renal arteries are the most common configuration and the renal arteries course anterior and medial to the kidney. However, in approximately 24% to  30% of kidneys, there will be multiple renal arteries. The right main renal artery typically passes posterior to the IVC, but precaval arteries are present in 5% of patients. The main renal artery typically divides at the renal hilum to form a dorsal and ventral branch. The dorsal and ventral  branches subsequently divide into segmental renal arteries. In approximately one fifth of renal arteries, there may be early branching of the renal arteries within 2 cm of the origin of the main renal arteries. The renal arteries may also be in close association with the collecting system or proximal ureter.



#7. CT Angiogram Showing Left Kidney with a Tumor

In this CTA we can see a tumor localized in posterior pole of the left kidney.

#8. T1-Weighted MRI Showing the Normal Anatomy of the Kidneys

Normal T1-weighted MRI appearance of the kidney. The renal parenchyma is similar to other soft tissues and there is T1 bright fat in the renal hilum




1. Atalay, H. A., Canat, H. L., Ülker, V., Alkan, İ., Özkuvanci, Ü., & Altunrende, F. (2017). Impact of personalized three-dimensional (3D) printed pelvicalyceal system models on patient information in percutaneous nephrolithotripsy surgery: a pilot study. International braz j urol, 43(3), 470-475.


2. Soliman, Y., Feibus, A. H., & Baum, N. (2015). 3D printing and its urologic applications. Reviews in urology, 17(1), 20.


3. Lee, J. K. (Ed.). (2006). Computed body tomography with MRI correlation (Vol. 1). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.



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