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3D printing repairs a dog's skull post-surgery


After it was destroyed by a cancerous tumor, a dachshunds skull is repaired with a custom 3-D-printed titanium plate.

"These implants are the next big leap in personalized medicine that allows for every element of an individual's medical care to be specifically tailored to their particular needs," Dr. Michelle Oblak says. (Photo courtesy of the Michelle Oblak/University of Guelph)

The University of Guelph reports that Michelle Oblak, DVM, DVSc, Diplomate ACVS, ACVS Fellow of Surgical Oncology, along with small-animal surgeon Galina M. Hayes, BVSc, MRCVS, PhD, removed a large cancerous tumor from dachshund Patches' skull and replaced it with a 3D-printed titanium implant. The surgery was a breakthrough for cancer research in animals as well as humans, the university states.

“The technology has grown so quickly, and to be able to offer this incredible, customized, state-of-the-art plate in one of our canine patients was really amazing,” says Dr. Oblak, assistant co-director of the U of G's Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation and board-certified veterinary surgical oncologist at Ontario Veterinary College, in a release from the university.

Dr. Oblak researches dogs as a disease model for cancer in humans, according to the release. In particular, she's interested in how digital rapid prototyping could help surgeons prepare for surgery and how 3D-printed implants could be used for reconstruction. She worked with a team at OVC to map Patches' tumor's location and size. Then, an engineer from Sheridan College's Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies created a 3D model of Patches' head, so Dr. Oblak could virtually perform the surgery first.

The patient, Patches, had a tumor growing on her skull, pushing perilously close to her brain and eye socket. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Oblak/University of Guelph)

According to the U of G, this method of creating a printed model to virtually operate on before surgery could reduce the time that patients spend under anesthesia while surgeons create models in the operating room. Patches' actual surgery lasted about five hours and afterward, she awoke alert.

“By performing these procedures in our animal patients, we can provide valuable information that can be used to show the value and safety of these implants for humans. These implants are the next big leap in personalized medicine that allows for every element of an individual's medical care to be specifically tailored to their particular needs,” Dr. Oblak says.

Today, Dr. Oblak and the U of G team offer this surgery and customized skull plate through a veterinarian's referral to the OVC Health Sciences Center. However, animals diagnosed with a skull tumor must be evaluated by a veterinary surgeon and have a CT scan performed to determine eligibility for the procedure. 

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