Dachshund With Cancer Gets 3D-Printed Titanium Skull Cap

3D printing tech makes new waves in veterinary medicine.

Ontario researchers implant 3D printed skull cap into Dachshund with cancer.
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3D printing tech makes new waves in veterinary medicine.

A nine-year-old Dachshund with cancer received a 3D-printed titanium skull cap from Ontario veterinary researchers. The Dachshund’s cancer treatment is being heralded as a breakthrough in veterinary medicine.

The Dachshund, named Patches, had a brain tumor that threatened to grow right through her skull. CTV News compared the tumor to the size of an orange stating that its continued growth could have cost Patches her life. The brain tumor resulted in deformity in the Dachshund’s head, Danielle Dymeck–Patches’ owner–reported.

“We called her our little unicorn because she had this bump on her head, but it would have killed her. It’s pretty amazing what they did for my girl.”

According to Dymeck, the tumor in Patches’ head had been there for years but grew considerably in the months preceding the 3D-printed skull cap’s implementation. Dymeck’s vet advised her to go to Cornell University with Patches’ treatment. A vet at Cornell turned to Michelle Oblak, a veterinary surgical oncologist working at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, for advice on Patches’ treatment.

Oblak first recommended that part of Patches’ skull be surgically removed and replaced with a titanium mesh. However, the Guelph veterinarian oncologist later deemed the procedure impractical due to its cost, length, and imprecise nature. Afterward, Oblak suggested a different method in which Patches would be fitted with a custom-made 3D-printed titanium skull cap.

After taking an image of the tumor in Patches’ head, Oblak along with several veterinary surgeons, software engineers, and industrial engineers mapped out how to remove the cancerous growth and replace it with a 3D-printed skull.

ADEISS, a company based in London that specialized in medical-grade 3D printing, were sent digital plans of the titanium skull cap Patches would need for the surgery. By the end of March, the Dachshund with cancer underwent a four-hour operation to get the 3D-printed titanium skull cap, and it was successful. Patches no longer lives with cancer.

Oblak believes that surgery like Patches’ is unprecedented in veterinarian medicine conducted in North America. She believes procedures like Patches’ should be made more readily available.

“Our hope is this is something that could be more widely available on a broad scale. It went very well.”

Interestingly enough, there is another veterinarian case in which 3D-printing was used to help treat an animal. In 2017, a female black-breasted leaf turtle–who is also named Patches–received a 3D-printed face mask to cover up a hole in her left nostril, reported American Veterinarian. A tiny titanium screw was also threaded through Patches’ face mask to cover another large hole found in her hard palate.

Much like the Dachshund with cancer, the black-breasted leaf turtle’s surgery was successful as well. Dr. Boaz Arzi, one of the doctors that worked to treat Patches the turtle, shared Oblak’s thoughts on 3D-printing in veterinary medicine.

“Human medicine has been using 3-D printing for years, and veterinary medicine is quickly catching up. There are [three] areas in which 3-D printing has revolutionized how we do things. One is surgical planning, the second is resident and student education, and the third is owner communication.”