3D Printed Skull Cap: Helping A Dog Fight Cancer

A Story of Courage and Potential

This is a fascinating and caring story about how 3D printing can also save animal’s lives. It’s the story of a 9 year old dachshund, named Patches, who developed a bump on her head the size of an orange that turned out to be cancerous. Patches’ owner was referred by her veterinarian to Cornell University‘s veterinary program, which in turn pointed her toward a veterinary surgical oncologist with the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. The doctor had been studying the use of 3D printing technology for dogs.

The dog’s tumor grew right through her skull which normally both tumor and part of the skull would be removed, and then a titanium mesh would be fitted in place. The procedure has some risks – it’s imprecise, costly and lengthy. But Patches was perfect for another new procedure – a 3D printed, custom titanium skull cap.

The skull cap took about two hours to design, the final print was ready in about two weeks with holes in it for fitting screws on. The surgery proceeded with taking out of 70% of the skull and then the entire tumor. The procedure took about four hours, and within 30 minutes after waking up, Patches was taking a walk outside.

This development is the first of its kind in North America, to be published in the upcoming months after the surgery. There’s a similar case treated in Texas earlier but that did not use a full skull cap but a titanium mesh instead. Sadly, the dog passed away from complications after the surgery. The oncologist who helped and designed the full skull cap created a cutting guide to follow during the surgery. She said there’s very little room for error, talking less than two millimetres or else the plate wouldn’t fit.

Patches, though, is doing well, despite a separate incident a week after the surgery when she suffered a slipped disk that paralyzed her hind legs. She is in good spirits, however, and otherwise healthy and cancer-free.

It was said that Patches’ owner was nervous about the prospect but decided to go ahead with the procedure. She felt her pet would recover and become a part of cancer research to help humans help animals.

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