Jul.18, 2013

3D printing can truly change the world for better, whether by saving the life of a baby, giving an injured bald eagle a new beak, or helping saving duck Buttercup's life by giving him a new foot. 3D printing is used to help animals in the same way it helps human.

In an Australian first, Southpaws Speciality Surgery for Animals is using 3D printing technology for faster and more accurate diagnosis and surgery. Dr Charles Kuntz is quick to admit that he is always on the look-out for new technologies to improve his practice. The recent acquisition of a uPrint SE Printer has enable the surgeon to model a critical joint or physiological feature.

"Take for example, a dog that has a bone chip in the elbow joint," explains Dr Kuntz. "The initial CT scan or X-ray will likely show the problem, but it is difficult to explain to the family how it has occurred and what treatment is required. With a model of the joint showing where the damage has occurred, not only can the referring vet make a better judgement on whether specialist surgery is required, but can also show the pet owner how it will be done."

3D model of dog elbow joint showing bone chip (pink area)

3D model of dog skull showing bone tumour (rough textured area) on the zygomatic arch

The 3D printer is proving to be a useful tool for assessment of tumour removal techniques, as a template for surgical incisions on bone and for research into atypical conditions for dogs and cats.

In addition, Dr Kuntz is using the 3D printer to design orthopaedic implant devices to assist in the stabilisation and repair of affected bones and joints.

"The more we use the 3D Printer, the more uses we find for it," says Dr Kuntz. "We can now use the models to plan our surgical approach, or use it to make a model for bone replacement out of titanium. We have also used it to make a mould out of putty that we can sterilise and place on the bone as a cutting template."

Watch below a quick review of 3D printing being used at Southpaws' specialist veterinary care facility.

Southpaws clinic is not the only clinic who uses 3D printing to help animals. When 11-month-old Bekka, a German shepherd puppy needed surgery, researchers at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals used a 3D printer to fabricate medical models based on CT scans.

Bekka had an angular limb deformity that was causing her leg to grow crooked. But the CT didn't tell the entire story. Using 3D printed model of Bekka's bone, Krotscheck was able to to better plan the operation and customize metal plates before surgery started.

"I knew what plate to use, how to contour the plate, where it should sit on the bone, and where the cuts should be made," said Krotscheck. "All the decision-making was done 24 hours in advance. Having access to the models prior to surgery decreased the length of time Bekka was under anesthesia, decreased the time surgery took from start to finish, and ultimately decreased the risk of infection."

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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