As the use of point-of-care ultrasound expands in emergency medicine, phantoms offer an attractive training solution for new learners and continuing education. Unfortunately, commercially available products are expensive and likely cost-prohibitive for individual practitioners to purchase. Luckily, there are a number of quality, low cost do-it-yourself (DIY) models published in journals and on the Internet. To help you navigate your options, I have created a compendium of DIY ultrasound models relevant to emergency medicine. The models are divided by system or application with a cost estimate for each model, if provided, as well as a list of materials and a short description. Links are provided for further reading.
In general, tissue is simulated by several different products. By far the most cost effective is gelatin with added psyllium. In recent years, ballistic gel has emerged as an alternative that, while more expensive, offers more longevity of the model and is reusable. Other models incorporate tofu to simulate tissue. While each of these substances has some benefits, they all suffer from phantom tracks being left behind after each needle insertion which obscure subsequent views and is the limiting factor for vascular and procedural models. Using meat-based products such as chicken breasts, Spam and other similar products avoids phantom tracks, but limits the duration of use and requires procedures to avoid bacterial contamination of the ultrasound probes. Keep these advantages and limitations in mind when selecting models for simulation.