Dec 4, 2017 | By David

Puppies and 3D printing go together like ice cream and hot weather, and a recent heartwarming development in the already above-average-temperature state of California shows how the technology has the potential to help out man’s best friend just as much as the aerospace, automotive or medical sectors. After suffering serious injuries in an altercation with another dog, four-month old Loca was taken to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine for emergency surgery, and a 3D printed mask was a crucial part of the healing process.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, sometimes (almost) literally, and this story is a prime example of that. The injuries sustained by the young female Staffordshire bull terrier in a brutal biting incident were very severe, with her right jaw completely shattering and puncture wounds being sustained to her neck. The reconstructive procedures were outside of the veterinary college’s normal field of operation, so they reached out to UC Davis’ Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service (DOSS), as well as getting help from biomedical engineering students from the College of Engineering. The recovery effort was led by faculty members Drs. Frank Verstraete and Boaz Arzi, and resident Dr. Colleen Geisbush

According to spokesperson for the center in California, “Loca was placed under general anesthesia for a cone-beam CT scan to characterize the extent of her injuries. The scan showed the extent of injuries to her facial bones, jawbone, TMJ, and also a small fracture in the vertebrae of her neck. A salvage surgery was then performed to remove bone fragments form her right zygomatic arch and right caudal mandible.”

The BME students’ TEAM lab is located just across campus from the veterinary hospital, so the mask could be immediately rushed over when it was completed the following day. They were able to 3D print this customized maxillofacial recovery device, which known as the Exo-K9, by using 3D models produced from the CT scans of the dog’s face. This meant that it would be a good fit and provide the required support to help her on her way back to recovery.

"Loca did extremely well throughout her three-day hospitalization’’, said the spokesperson. ‘’She almost immediately began eating soft food and remained comfortable on her pain medications. In addition to the Exo-K9, Loca was fitted with a padded neck bandage to provide stabilization of her neck fracture and limit her range of mobility during the healing process."

As well as the strict diet of soft foods and the mandatory neck brace, chew toys were off limits for over a month, in order to give the puppy’s jaw time to heal properly. Wandering around looking like a doped-up canine Zorro, Loca was nevertheless able to weather the storm and is now almost completely back to normal again, minus a few teeth that didn’t mend properly.

Surprising as it may seem, this is far from the first time 3D printing technology has been used to put a wounded pooch back together again.  We’ve seen 3D printed replacement teeth before, as well as canine limbs being mended with regular prosthetics or advanced bio-based ones. Hopefully this will be the last time a mutt needs to be mended, but if it’s not, we can always count on 3D printing to lend a helping paw.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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