Dr. Matthew Allen, Professor of Small Animal Surgery at the University of Cambridge, was faced with a challenging case when he encountered Bella, the Romanian Bucovina Shepherd dog. Bella was plagued with severe mobility problems due to an extremely painful knee joint which had been damaged by disease from a young age.
3D Printing is increasingly being applied in the field of medicine, but so far mostly humans have benefitted from the possibilities it offers. When considering a total knee replacement for Bella, Dr. Allen thought 3D Printing might provide a less aggressive solution, as the bone was only partly damaged and a large part of it could still be used. Dr. Allen set about creating 3D models of Bella’s knee, in order to decide which parts of the bone needed to be removed, and which could still be used.
To do this, Dr. Allen first created a virtual 3D model of the knee joint in Materialise Mimics, basing the model on CT scans of Bella’s knee. Then the model was printed in 3D at the University of Cambridge, so that Dr. Allen could plan the surgery by using an actual, tangible model of the bone. The models were also used to explain the procedure to Bella’s owner, who – being a vet herself – was fascinated with the implementation of this technology in veterinary surgery.
Then the implant was designed and traditionally manufactured using the expertise of American company BioMedtrix, based on the 3D model of the knee joint. The company also digitally designed a custom surgical guide which could be placed on the bone during the operation, and used to cut through the bone at highly precise intervals. Dr. Allen 3D printed numerous of these custom surgical guides in his laboratory to take with him to the surgery, making this the first ever partial knee replacement on a dog which has been done with 3D printed surgical guides!
Finally, during the surgery itself, the implant was secured to Bella’s knee after the diseased bone had been removed, and six months after the surgery we are glad to report that she has been making an excellent recovery. From barely being able to move around, Bella is now able to walk freely and enjoy a much higher quality of life.