AMS Spring 2023

Cecily the Chicken to Receive a 3D Printed Prosthetic After Amputation

6K SmarTech

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Tufts_Cummings-horizDon’t ever underestimate the power of our love for pets. While you might be thinking chicken legs are only for breading in flour and frying in Crisco, Andrea Martin of Clinton, Massachusetts would tell you how Cecily, a three-month-old Leghorn chicken, is a forever pet. While you might be thinking of cold chicken salad mixed with celery and even a few chopped pecans, Andrea Martin would be schooling you on the merits of raising chickens, whom she very much appreciates alive. And yes, while your mouth is watering over the idea of chicken cordon bleu, Andrea Martin is busy thinking about happy Cecily will be with her new 3D printed leg.

(Don’t look at me, I’m a vegetarian.) Soon though, everyone will be checking out one very happy chicken who has been suffering from a damaged tendon since birth. Her owner, Andrea Martin, definitely has a soft spot for Cecily–and a downright passion for chickens in general.

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Andrea Martin with Cecily. [Credit: T&G Staff/Steve Lanava]

Raised on a farm herself, Martin does what writers should do–she writes about what she knows, as a poultry behaviorist. She writes about chickens as well as roosters, and is also known to pen a thing or two regarding rare fowl and even horses. When it became obvious that Cecily’s leg would have to be amputated due to her slipped tendon condition which had rendered one leg useless, the owner either had to ante up for a $2,500 custom prosthetic or have the pet chicken put to sleep.

Being cared for by Dr. Emi Knafo from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, Cecily was in the hands of an experienced vet who was also able to make use of progressive 3D printing technology to make a fairly rare medical device in order to compensate for the amputation. Dr. Knafo is a specialist in avian orthopedics, and has also created novel therapies and treatments even for smaller animals such as rats.

“The foot tendons contract in an abnormal place,” said Dr. Knafo. “It puts them at risk for sores and infections, and the choices were euthanasia, or try to manage it with pain medication. It could be an uncomfortable life. But as a veterinarian, we always try to evaluate and intervene in a positive way.”

“People would not think twice about it (the procedure) for another kind of animal,” Dr. Knafo said. “We want to give her as much of a pain-free life as possible.”

Ms. Martin will pay for the procedure herself, which is not uncommon for her do–she also financed a hysterectomy for another chicken named Emily. This week, Dr. Knafo will amputate Cecily’s leg at the upper part, known as the hock. This will also be the first time they have done such a procedure on a chicken at Tufts.

Veterinary staff will take a CT scan for transferring data to create the plastic 3D printed prosthetic, created by the team at Tufts University, at their Medford campus. After a healing time which will probably be around two weeks, Dr. Knafo will work to fit the 3D printed prosthetic on Cecily.

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[Credit: T&G Staff/Steve Lanava]

We’ve certainly written our share of stories on a wide range of lucky pets, whose pet-owners are an inspiration to us all, allowing other farm animals like Felix the sheep to be fitted with a 3D printed leg in the famed Woodstock Farm area, or Hobbes the terrier to receive a 3D printed front leg prosthetic complete with a harness. Closer to (Cecily’s) home, we also saw Foghorn the rooster receive 3D printed legs only last month. These are just a few examples, as the prosthetic industry is growing so quickly, not only for humans–and children in developing countries even more especially–but also animals.

 

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