Advances in Computational Human Phantoms and Their Applications in Biomedical Engineering – A Topical Review

Wolfgang Kainz, Esra Neufeld, Wesley E. Bolch, Christian G. Graff, Chan Hyeong Kim, Niels Kuster, Bryn Lloyd, Tina Morrison, Paul Segars, Yeon Soo Yeom, Maria Zankl, X. George Xu, and Benjamin M. W. Tsui, IEEE Transactions on Radiation and Plasma Medical Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 1, January 2019, pp. 1–23, online 03 December 2018; doi:10.1109/TRPMS.2018.2883437

In this paper, recent progress in the field of computational human phantoms (CHPs) and their applications in biomedical engineering is reviewed. The very first CHPs were composed of simple geometric volumes, e.g., cylinders and spheres, while current CHPs are of high resolution, cover a substantial range of the patient population, have high anatomical accuracy, are poseable and morphable, and are augmented with various physical and physiological layers to perform functionalized computations. Advances in imaging techniques and semi-automated segmentation tools allow rapid and personalized development of CHPs. These advances open the door to efficient development of personalized CHPs, including models that feature individualized disease representations. Because many CHP applications increasingly provide data for regulatory submissions concerning various medical devices, the validity, anatomical accuracy, and availability to cover the entire patient population is of utmost importance. This review paper is organized into two main sections: the first section is a review of the different modeling techniques used to create CHPs, whereas the second section is a discussion of various applications of CHPs in biomedical engineering. On each topic, an overview, a brief history, recent developments, and an outlook into the future are provided.

The scientific and technical impact of CHPs be summarized as:

  • CHPs are becoming more detailed and realistic, more readily available and in greater numbers, and benefit from rapid progress in simulation technologies that allow for increasingly complex in silico computational modeling
  • The applications of CHPs are rapidly expanding from ionizing radiation dosimetry to many other applications
  • The Virtual Population (ViP) is at the forefront of this development, in particular by pushing CHPs to the next dimension through functionalization, such as the enhancement of nerve trajectories with associated dynamic electrophysiology models
  • CHPs allow investigations on biomedical imaging that would be too risky or impossible to perform on living subjects.