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In electrical impedance tomography an approximation for the internal resistivity distribution is computed based on the knowledge of the injected currents and measured voltages on the surface of the body. It is often assumed that the injected currents are confined to the two-dimensional (2-D) electrode plane and the reconstruction is based on 2-D assumptions. However, the currents spread out in three dimensions and, therefore, off-plane structures have significant effect on the reconstructed images. In this paper we propose a finite element-based method for the reconstruction of three-dimensional resistivity distributions. The proposed method is based on the so-called complete electrode model that takes into account the presence of the electrodes and the contact impedances. Both the forward and the inverse problems are discussed and results from static and dynamic (difference) reconstructions with real measurement data are given. It is shown that in phantom experiments with accurate finite element computations it is possible to obtain static images that are comparable with difference images that are reconstructed from the same object with the empty (saline filled) tank as a reference.