3-D Printer Makes Equine Neck Replica To Train Veterinarians

Similar to doctors in human medicine, veterinarians spend hundreds of hours honing their skills in laboratories before they begin practicing in the field. Learning how to administer joint injections is no different. The equine neck has a complex set of muscles and vertebra, but a new 3-D printer is making it easier for vets to learn how to precisely place ultrasound-guided injections.

Veterinary students typically learn how to do this procedure on equine cadavers, which have a limited shelf life and also have a delay in getting injection results to learn what may have been done incorrectly. To see if 3-D models might be a useful teaching tool, Dr. Alex zur Linden, radiologist and Ontario Veterinary College researcher, joined Dr. John Phillips, an engineer and director of 3D printing in the University of Guelph’s Digital Haptic Lab.

Watch a video on how the 3-D models are created below.

Once a CT scan of an equine neck is complete, computer software will highlight the part or parts of the scan that will be printed. The printing takes between three and six hours. The team tested 13 different materials and printers to determine which one best simulated real bone using ultrasound; six of the materials worked for simulating bones or joints.

The model vertebrae were then embedded in ballistics gel that simulated the soft tissue around the bones. The models give vet students the ability to practice procedures with instant feedback; they’re also efficient and reusable. Once the lab is complete, the model can be melted down and used again.

The research team is hopeful that the models will become a resource for the scientific community and spur the creation of other3-D models for horses and other animals.

Read more at Equine Guelph.

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