A 3D-printed face mask, delicate surgery and plenty of love from the people at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine gave Loca, a 4-month-old female Staffordshire bull terrier, a new lease on life.
Loca was severely attacked by another dog, leaving her cheekbone and jawbone fractured, along with extensive damage to her temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. She also had multiple puncture wounds all over her face and neck, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The details of Loca’s road to healing were detailed in a university news release. Dr. Frank Verstraete, Dr. Boaz Arzi and resident Dr. Colleen Geisbush of the UC Davis veterinary hospital’s Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service, all faculty members, knew that saving the dog’s life would be challenging, but had hope. Loca was young, so there was a good chance that her injuries would heal naturally.
Loca’s case also allowed the team to use a new face mask they had been developing alongside biomedical engineering students.
The mask was designed to be used as a cast for a fractured skull, and was a result of collaboration between the oral surgeons and the UC Davis College of Engineering. The mask, called the Exo-K9 Exoskeleton, is a custom-built, 3D-printed device.
As soon as Loca was admitted, Arza notified the engineering students to print an Exo-K9 if a CT scan showed that the dog would suit as an initial case. The scan showed the severity of Loca’s injuries, and a salvage surgery was completed to remove bone fragments from her cheek and jawbones.
While Loca was recovering the students at the Translating Engineering Advances to Medicine Laboratory used the dog’s CT scans to measure and mold the mask to fit her head perfectly, in order to maximize healing time.
The dog did well during her three-day hospitalization, and started eating soft food. For the next month, her mask and neck collar stayed on, except to allow her to eat and drink. During a one-month check-up, the surgeons found that new bone was already forming to replace her damaged temporomandibular joint.
Three months later, Loca underwent a third cone-beam CT scan, which showed that she was recovering nicely from her surgery, and that her new bone growth was progressing well.