A puppy named Bento started off his life in a bit of a rocky way – on the wrong foot, you might call it. The pet store where he started his life believed that he had been dropped, fracturing his front foreleg. Although he received treatment right away, including surgery, he had some complications, and wasn’t healing well. That didn’t stop Emily Conway from falling in love and adopting him, however.

“I came into work one day, and there was this tiny, adorable little puppy staring out of a kennel,” she said.

An anonymous donor paid for Bento to have another surgery, but his leg still wasn’t healing correctly, and then he suffered another fracture.

“Even though his break was healing, he was healing with his leg sort of crooked,” said Conway. “He missed out on some of his puppyhood. He had been through so much already, he was so young.”

Bento was facing another surgery, but this time, his veterinarians would pull out all the stops to make sure that his leg was fixed for good. They turned to Case Western Reserve University’s think

, the school’s center for innovation and entrepreneurship, which has several 3D printers, as well as people with extensive 3D design and printing knowledge. These include Malcolm Cooke, Executive Director of think
, who had been approached for help with medical issues before – though never for a puppy.

“Normally I work with orthopedic surgeons and dental surgeons,” said Cooke. “3D printing is used a lot for surgical planning.”

Many humans have benefited from 3D printed surgical models of their organs, bones, even tumors – having a physical model of the area they will be operating on allows surgeons to plan delicate operations ahead of time, determining exactly what they will do before they make any cuts. Cooke was provided with a CAT scan (or dog scan) of Bento’s leg, which he used to create a 3D model and then a print.

“In this case, I don’t think Bento would have understood what was going to go on, but in humans, it is very important,” said Cooke.

Bento may not have needed a model to look at, but his surgeon, Andy Law, benefited greatly from being able to map out his surgery before beginning it.

“Hopefully get all the deformities corrected maybe in one bone cut instead of having to do multiple trigonometry type cuts,” he said.

Without the model, Law would have had to make decisions as he was cutting, which is risky when performing such a complex and delicate procedure. Having a 3D printed model allowed him to be fully prepared, however, and confident in what he would be doing.

“It would have been impossible to have got to this level of detail in terms of planning,” said Cooke. “The planning would have gone on in the OR.”

Cooke was pleased to have been able to use 3D printing to help an animal for the first time.

“It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “I’ve not met Bento yet, but I’ve seen lots of video of him running around, so that’s very rewarding.”

Bento, who is now a year old, is recovering well from his surgery, using all four legs to bound around his house and cause trouble.

“He runs around, jumps on the chair, off the chair on the couch, zooms around the side then he reverses and it’s just really fun to watch,” said Conway.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source/Images: News5 Cleveland]
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