Purdue 3D Printing Service Fabricates Bone Models for PVM Surgery Training

PVM students pin a 3D printed bone in an exercise to practice 'external fixation,' where pins are inserted through the skin into the bone and held in place by an external frame to give stability to a healing fracture.
PVM students pin a 3D printed bone in an exercise to practice "external fixation," where pins are inserted through the skin into the bone and held in place by an external frame to give stability to a healing fracture.

A recent innovation and partnership producing three-dimensional (3D) printed bones for a Purdue Veterinary Medicine small animal surgery lab stands to save the College's Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) hundreds of dollars a semester while providing a unique learning experience for surgeons-in-training. This partnership between the VTH and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute utilizes faculty expertise across scientific disciplines.

Dr. Sarah Malek, assistant professor of small animal orthopedic surgery, had experience using the 3D printing service previously when she was preparing for surgery to fix an angular limb deformity in a small dog. The 3D printed bone allowed the orthopedics team to measure, build and fit a plate to fix the bone long before the dog arrived for the procedure. Other fabrication companies exist for this purpose, but Dr. Malek said, "If we can be self-sufficient, why not?" The cost savings compared to purchasing the materials from other companies would be relatively small per semester, she said, but the money saved could be reallocated for other projects.

"I decided to see if we had a resource on campus that could reproduce bones. We could develop future models for teaching and resident training, and we could create any kind of fracture we want on any type of bone we want."

Dr. Malek called Dr. Davin Huston, faculty lead of the BoilerMaker Lab and associate professor of engineering technology at the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. The BoilerMaker Lab, located on Purdue's West Lafayette campus in Knoy Hall, specializes in 3D design and fabrication. The lab is outfitted with a variety of 3D printers, laser cutters, and other fabrication tools for student and faculty use. Dr. Huston was happy to partner on the bone printing project, and printed over thirty tibiae and femora for PVM students at about 30% savings per unit for the VTH.

Cristina Christianson, of the DVM Class of 2018, drills into a bone that was 3D printed for teaching purposes in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s BoilerMaker Labs.
Cristina Christianson, of the DVM Class of 2018, drills into a bone that was 3D printed for teaching purposes in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute's BoilerMaker Lab.

To print 3D bones, Dr. Malek first takes CT scans of the desired bones and sends them to the 3D printing lab. Dr. Huston renders the bone scans in several kinds of software to prepare and refine the model for printing. Once the preliminary steps are complete, it takes about 30 minutes to print a single femur in polymer resin.

Dr. Malek, Dr. Mark Rochat, professor of small animal orthopedic surgery, and Dr. Gert Breur, professor of small animal surgery, supervised students recently as they divided into groups in the Junior Surgery Lab, tightened their 3D printed bones into vices, and drilled into them with a hand drill. The exercise focused on "external fixation," where pins are inserted through the skin into the bone and held in place by an external frame to give stability to a healing fracture. "The goal is to give a mature understanding of orthopedic techniques — like wiring, drilling, and pinning — before they participate in an operation on a live animal with soft tissue," Dr. Rochat said.

Dr. Malek and Dr. Huston are already planning their next project together, creating a Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) model that shows students and client owners what the TPLO procedure is like in dogs that have had an ACL injury. "It's hard for owners to imagine what this will look like but when there's actually a physical model, it's easier for owners to understand the procedure and the aftercare process," Dr. Malek said.

"This [3D printing] service is an excellent perk for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital because it allows doctors to plan complicated surgical procedures in advance, reducing cost and risk to the patient. From that, it can permeate to all of these other things we can have models of for other educational purposes."

PVM students in the Junior Surgery Lab learned to clamp, pin, and wire broken bones using polymer resin bones 3D printed on Purdue’s campus.
PVM students in the Junior Surgery Lab learned to clamp, pin, and wire broken bones using polymer resin bones 3D printed on Purdue's campus.

 

Dr. Gert Breur, professor of small animal surgery, analyzes student work in the Junior Surgery Lab.
Dr. Gert Breur, professor of small animal surgery, analyzes student work in the Junior Surgery Lab.

 

Dr. Sarah Malek teaches best practices in external skeletal fixation to Katie Sands, Tierra Rose, and Abbie Schultz, all from the DVM Class of 2018, using practice bones she commissioned to be 3D printed in the Purdue BoilerMaker Lab.
Dr. Sarah Malek teaches best practices in external skeletal fixation to Katie Sands, Tierra Rose, and Abbie Schultz, all from the DVM Class of 2018, using practice bones she commissioned to be 3D printed in the Purdue BoilerMaker Lab.

 

(Left — right) Abbie Schultz, Katie Sands, and Tierra Rose, all from the DVM Class of 2018, with their completed wired and pinned bones. These bone models were printed in a 3D printing lab in a partnership between the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s BoilerMaker Lab.
(Left — right) Abbie Schultz, Katie Sands, and Tierra Rose, all from the DVM Class of 2018, with their completed wired and pinned bones. These bone models were printed in a 3D printing lab in a partnership between the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute's BoilerMaker Lab.

 


This story is part of the 2017 Spring PVM Report.

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