What’s 3D printing got to do with animal surgery?



Advances in technology such as 3D printing have led to significant changes in the way surgical procedures are now performed on pets.

According to Dr Christopher Tan from the University of Sydney, veterinarians are using technology to reduce the impact traditional open surgery typically has on Australian cats and dogs.

Dr Tan is a presenter at this week’s ASAVA Conference on the Gold Coast—ASAVA being a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) for vets who primarily treat pets.

A relatively new technology used in veterinary science—both in clinical practice and in teaching situations—is 3D printing, said Dr Tan.

“In the treatment of complex fractures, veterinarians can print and use 3D models to construct a detailed preoperative plan. Many programs even allow the surgeon to perform ‘virtual surgery’—cutting, moving and opposing the various bone fragments.

“The potential it has in terms of improving preoperative planning and surgical precision is really quite incredible. It can even be used for the production of customised surgical implants such as bone plates and interbody spacers.”

Dr Tan added that full open surgery is hard on patients—the surrounding tissue is heavily affected, anaesthetic requirements are high and the recovery time can be long.

“Thanks to modern technology, we are now able to perform minimally invasive surgery for a range of small animal procedures including lung and liver lobectomies, biopsies and desexing,” Dr Tan said.

“Even in cases where open surgery is essential, for example, in spinal and joint surgery—minimally invasive procedures that utilise magnification still have a role to play in improving visualisation and accuracy during the open surgery.”

The ASAWA 43rd Annual Conference is being held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, 7-11 August, and is focusing on those areas of pet care that veterinarians deal with every day: dermatology, anaesthesia and surgery.


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