3D scanning and printing technologies are making enormous contributions to both the practice and study of medicine and this is no less true of veterinary medicine than any other area. Recently, Dr. Matthew Allen, professor of Small Animal Surgery at the University of Cambridge, was able to reap the benefits of these advanced manufacturing methods when dealing with a patient named Bella who had a damaged knee joint.

bellaBella is a Romanian Bucovina Shepherd, a large rustic dog whose breed has traditionally worked side by side for centuries with Romanian shepherds. In Bella’s case, however, her most important job was being a loving companion, something at which she excels. Unfortunately, she suffered from mobility problems as a result of a damaged knee joint and in order to maintain her quality of life, it was determined that she needed to undergo surgery. Luck was on her side in the form of Dr. Allen who believed that 3D printing might provide a less traumatic surgery with better results.

bella8Because the bone in Bella’s knee was only partially damaged, the result of a disease when she was young, Dr. Allen decided it might not be necessary to replace the entire joint. In order to understand how much of it needed to be removed and what could be left in place, he first created a series of 3D models of Bella’s knee. He used the CT scan data to create the virtual model in Materialise Mimics and had the print produced at the University of Cambridge.

Being able to examine the joint in detail prior to the surgery gave Dr. Allen a leg up when the time came to undertake the operation. In addition, a 3D printed surgical guide was created to be placed on the bone during the operation that directed him exactly where the cuts to the bone were to be made. The implant itself was created using traditional methods by the American company BioMedtrix but the 3D print provided the input necessary to create it. Thus advanced manufacturing technology played a vital role in optimizing this surgical intervention and this represents the first time that 3D printed guides have been used in a partial knee replacement surgery on a dog.

bella4The surgery was a success and Bella’s owner, herself a veterinarian, reports that there has been a significant improvement in Bella’s mobility. From being nearly unable to move around, she is now able walk around and get back to enjoying all of the sniffing and snuggling that a dog could hope for. Discuss further over in the 3D Printing Aids in Canine Knee Replacement forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Materialise / images: ITV News Anglia]
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