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Specialists at the Veterinary Hospital of the Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM), in Mexico City, have placed the country's first articulated prosthetic leg, printed using 3D technology in Mexico, onto a dog. The prosthetic leg is unique as it allows the dog to preserve its natural anatomy, allowing the joints to move in a similar way as natural limbs do.
Romina, a six-year-old Whippet from Merida, lost both her front legs in 2013 during an accident with a lawnmower in Brazil. In the South American country, Romina's left limb was rebuilt using titanium plates, the plates joined the limb but she lost all movement in her leg, while her right leg was amputated. The mother of Romina's owner, Silvia Valdez, said she is happy with their beloved pet's progress.
"When I put it on [prosthesis] I see she feels happy with it, in spite of the fact she is learning to work with it. But I don't see that it bothers her. She is trying to walk. She even supports herself more on the prosthesis and rests the other leg, so I'm happy about that. She's starting to balance her weight on the other side," Valdez said.
Dr Beremiz Sanchez, who operated on the dog to remove the plate and screws from her first prosthesis then turned to the UVM to help him design a 3D prosthesis. The team worked on a six-month project to create the prototype, select the appropriate materials and design the prosthetic limb system for Romina.
Fernanda Ortiz, who leads the department of rehabilitation at the UVM said Romina needs to learn to use the device and will have to endure an adaptation process at a rehabilitation and physiotherapy clinic.
"When she flexes her elbow, the whole prosthesis flexes and so she has to learn to make this movement in order to learn how to use it. Obviously, we're unable to tell her: 'Flex and walk normally with your elbow', because she doesn't understand and so it's very important for us, through exercises and indications, to show her how to do it," Ortiz said.
Santiago Garcia, UVM's great species coordinator, said that being able to print out the model in 3D, made the process of changes easier.
"When we have the 3D model of the patient's limb, we are able to adjust the size of the piece to the patient, in terms of millimetres. It's a prosthesis which is designed especially for this patient. Secondly and this is very important, it allows us to adjust it quickly. If I re-print a piece and I detect it has, for example, two millimetres in size I have to repair, it's much easier for me to print it in a 3D printer than to redesign it, the emptying, the mould and the whole traditional process," Garcia said.
Once the patient gets used to its new member, the final prosthesis will be designed in aluminium, which will be covered with skin-like material. Doctors at the Veterinary Hospital of UVM, said they will soon be able to design prosthesis for other species, such as turtles or crocodiles.