There’s no denying that 3D printing has had a major impact on the healthcare industry, but it’s not just people who are benefiting.
3D printing is already helping veterinarians make major improvements in the healthcare treatment of our furry friends.
3D Printing Is Improving Animal Diagnosis
3D printing began as an expensive technology that only the top industries could make use of, but it’s quickly evolved into an affordable tool for a wide variety of applications, and in some cases, a household commodity.
Veterinarians are among the many doctors making use of 3D printing for patient diagnosis. Evelyn Galban, a neurosurgeon of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, is using 3D printing to help a canine patient with a malformed skull.
“It’s difficult to fully understand the malformation until we have it in our hands. That usually doesn’t happen until we’re in surgery,” she told Engineering.com.
But by examining a 3D printed model of the dog’s skull before surgery, she was able to create an informed plan of surgical action.
This is just one example of how 3D printing can help veterinarians understand the abnormalities they want to correct. Frank Verstraete of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine said, “[T]o be able to hold a replica […] in your hand […] The advantages of that are tenfold compared to a screen image.”
Printing Bones for Dogs
3D printing is helping veterinarians improve pre-operative health procedures. Deirdre Quinn-Gotham of Tuskegee University’s School of Veterinary Medicine collaborated with the Department of Aerospace Science Engineering on a 3D printing project to create a surgical metal plate as well as an abnormal canine humerus.
They used an orthopedic surgical plate to create a small-scale model, which they printed using a biodegradable plastic filament.
The resulting 3D-printed models were highly accurate — appearing virtually identical to the original bone.
The method could be used to improve preoperative procedures and planning for veterinary surgery, as well as precision in certain procedures.
And since the models can be preserved for long periods of time, they could be used as educational tools or models for future surgeries.
A Closer Look at Bone Fractures
Quinn-Gotham’s study is only the latest of its kind. A researcher at Kansas State University has already converted CT scans of animal bone into 3D prints. These can also be used to develop treatments for animal bone fractures and deformities, as well as for educational purposes.
“The digital CT scan files are just a lot of small, chopped up pieces of the bone image,” Castinado said. “I use a 3-D modeling software to make all those pieces into a whole. I also have to take away all the extra fragments that are attached to the bone so that when it is 3-D printed, it will look like a bone.”
Compared to human medicine, veterinary scientists are only on the edge of unlocking the potential uses of 3D printing for their patients. But the possibilities already seem promising.