4 February 2019

Operation performed by Utrecht University’s faculty of Veterinary Medicine is a first in Europe:

Dog fitted with new 3D-printed skull roof

Dog fitted with new 3D-printed skull roof

At the end of last year, Utrecht University’s Clinic for Companion Animal Health fitted a dog with a new 3D-printed skull roof following the removal of a tumour. It is the first time that an operation of this type has been performed in Europe. The operation was made possible through a unique collaboration between the University’s faculty of Veterinary Medicine and faculty of Medicine. Thanks to this unique collaboration between veterinary medicine and human medicine, the experience gained in this field from animals will benefit both dogs and their owners.

The Siberian Husky had an operation to remove a benign tumour of the cranial wall, known as an osteoma. The tumour, which grew both internally and externally, was so big that it was putting pressure on the animal’s brain, so a new skull roof was required.

Björn Meij places the new titanium skull roof
One of the main advantages of 3D printing of a skull roof is that it can be tailored perfectly to the individual
The patient after the operation

Unique collaboration between Veterinary Medicine and Medicine

Thanks to a unique collaboration between the faculty of Veterinary Medicine and University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), a new skull roof made of titanium was printed with the help of a CT scan of the dog. A specialised company (3D systems from Leuven, Belgium) was responsible for printing the titanium implants. Veterinary surgeon Professor Bjorn Meij, is delighted with how the operation went and the dog’s subsequent recovery: ‘One of the main advantages of 3D printing of a skull roof is that it can be tailored perfectly to the individual, and a porous titanium edge can be printed. This edge allows the bone to grow into the implant so it becomes integrated into the skull.’ It is the first time that an operation of this type has been performed in the Netherlands. The dog is now at home and is recovering well.

Research

The operation and use of this material is part of a larger study in which the faculty of Veterinary Medicine and faculty of Medicine at Utrecht University are collaborating. This study relates to the development of a 3D-printed implant for use in hip dysplasia in humans and dogs. Work has already been done with 3D-printed components for the lower front limb of dogs, and the technique can be used to replace skeletal components following the removal of a bone tumour, for example in a paw or jaw or the skull.

r.l.t.r.: skull roof prosthesis, skull after removing tumour, skull with tumour

Regenerative medicine and One Health

The faculty of Veterinary Medicine and UMC Utrecht have been collaborating in the field of regenerative medicine for years, primarily in the field of the spine (back pain caused by lumbar degeneration) and joints (wear and tear) or arthritis. The main focus is on dogs and horses. The faculty of Veterinary Medicine sees large numbers of these animals that experience these conditions. Bjorn Meij: ‘But we are collaborating ever more closely with human medicine, and this has led, for example, to researchers from Veterinary Medicine, UMC Utrecht and the Hubrecht Laboratory working together in a single lab. More and more is being published on dogs and horses and the translation of findings for comparable diseases in humans: hence the focus on One health – One Medicine.’

This project was co-funded by the Prosperos project (financed by Interreg VA Flanders - The Netherlands Program). 

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