Two British vets have been able to use additive manufacturing to create orthopaedic implants for small dogs.
Dr Kevin Parsons, an orthopaedic vet at Langford Vets’ small animal hospital in Bristol, and former colleague Tom Shaw, a neurosurgeon now at Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service in Solihull, have used custom 3D-printed anatomical guides, surgical guides and titanium implants with animals.
Since 2016, the guides have been used in daily practice with animals referred to them suffering from angular limb deformity or spinal malformation. In doing so, they have not only been able to improve surgical accuracy and the predictability of outcomes, but also reduce theatre time.
Dr Parsons said: “Taking this approach with additive has resulted in an improved preoperative planning, reduced surgical time and more predictable outcomes.”
Certain breeds of small dog are genetically prone to developing potentially life changing conditions. In dachshunds and Shih Tzu’s, abnormal bone growth can sometimes cause their front paws to point outwards. And in pugs, and other breeds with corkscrew tails, are susceptible to spinal problems caused by mis-shapen bones. If diagnosed in time these conditions can be treated with surgery.
However, their size and weight can often present a challenge to veterinarian surgeons. With such small animals, corrective surgery to drill and cut bones, stabilise vertebrae or reposition limbs is a slow, lengthy and intricate process.
Integral to Langford Vets’ additive journey has been its partnership with Swansea-based CBM Wales (CBM) - a commercially focused advanced research, product development and batch manufacturing facility, established by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Dr Ffion O’Malley and a team of additive manufacturing designers and engineers at CBM, oversee production of bespoke surgical guides (either in polymer or metal) and titanium implants to match exactly to each individual patient’s anatomy to restore mechanical and/or aesthetical functions.
Each implant design, follows precise specifications from the Langford Vets’ surgical team, using CT or MRI diagnostic imaging data, and is manufactured on a GE Additive Arcam EBM Q10plus on site at CBM’s facility in South Wales.
The EBM process takes place in a vacuum and at elevated temperatures, which results in stress - relieved implants with properties better than cast and comparable to wrought materials.