Purdue 3D Printing Service Fabricates Bone Models for PVM Surgery Training
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.
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."
This story is part of the 2017 Spring PVM Report.