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Lucky dog gets 3D-printed skull plate after tumor removal

Patches the dachshund could be blazing a trail for medical uses of 3D printing for humans.

Patches had this tumor removed.

Ontario Veterinary College

Patches may be a dog, but she could end up being a role model for the treatment of humans with certain types of cancer.

Patches is a dachshund who had a large tumor weighing on her head, growing into her skull and pushing toward her brain and eye. Michelle Oblak of the Ontario Veterinary College performed a challenging surgical procedure on the pup to remove the skull growth and replace it with a 3D-printed custom titanium implant.

A 3D model of Patches' skull and tumor helped the veterinarians with the surgery.

Ontario Veterinary College

The Ontario Veterinary College detailed the procedure on Monday, saying the surgical use of the plate marks a veterinary first in North America. The surgery took place at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. 

Oblak worked with a University of Guelph team in Ontario called Rappid (rapid prototyping of patient-specific implants for dogs) to map the tumor and create a 3D model of Patches' head to allow for a practice run of the surgery. 

The team was able to use the modeling data to create the 3D-printed titanium plate, which replaced 70 percent of the top of the dog's skull. 

The practice model combined with the pre-made plate helped to reduce the surgery time, which would typically take much longer if a veterinarian had to remove the tumor and then create a matching implant out of titanium mesh in the operating room.

Patches was awake and alert within about half an hour after the successful surgery. The veterinary college did not disclose the procedure's cost. 

"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," Oblak said.

There have already been some ground-breaking 3D-printed medical implants for humans. A patient received a titanium skull implant in 2013 and a Dutch woman was given a 3D-printed plastic cranium in 2014.

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