A 9-year old Dachshund became the beneficiary of a miracle in modern veterinary medicine when she received a custom made titanium skull courtesy of 3D printing technology. Patches had a bump on her head for years, prompting her guardians to call her their little unicorn. When that lump began to grow aggressively, it went from a charming feature to a life-threatening medical condition. In order to take out the cancer, about 70 percent of her skull had to be removed.
During a single surgery, veterinary surgeons removed the cancerous portions of her skull and fitted her with the custom skull. In order for that to work, a lot of prep work was done by a large team of surgeons, software engineers and an industrial engineer. The first step was doing a CT scan of Patches’ head and of the tumor. Using various software programs to work with the image, they digitally removed the tumor and the parts of the skull that were not healthy. Finally, they mapped out the positioning of a 3D-printed skull and its exact shape, and sent that design to an advanced 3D printing company that creates medical-grade products. It took two weeks to make the skull.
The primary veterinary surgeon also had to create and follow an extremely precise guide for the cutting during surgery. The margin for error was small because discrepancies as small as two millimeters would have meant failure. It took four hours to perform the surgery, which was a success.
Not only did this entire procedure allow Patches to survive against the odds, it also is a success that engineers and medical professionals can build on. It is now more likely that in the future, other experts will perform similar procedures on additional dogs and perhaps on people as well.