— It’s hard to keep a good dog down, and Andy, a
dachshund with Yoda ears and boundless energy, was as
good as they get.
since he joined Lorraine and Robert Young’s Woodstown,
N.J., home as a pup seven years ago, the little long guy
had been a tireless source of laughter, licks and doggy
love. This was especially valuable to Robert, who had a
rare degenerative neurological disorder, multifocal
leukoencephalopathy, that was increasingly limiting his
mobility. As Robert’s condition declined, Andy’s
favorite place to lounge became the spot right next to
him on the recliner. Basically, Andy was wherever Robert
and Lorraine were, with a wagging tail and an eager
morning in July, when Lorraine had to call for Andy to
come to her, she realized something was wrong.
he tried to come to me, he was dragging his legs,”
Lorraine brought Andy to St. Francis Veterinary Center
in Woolwich Township, N.J., whose chief vet, Mark Magazu,
had been caring for the Youngs’ pets for 30 years.
diagnosis: Andy was suffering from intervertebral disc
disease, a dangerous condition in which the cushioning
discs between the vertebrae of the spine push into the
spaces between the discs. Overnight, the disease had
paralyzed Andy’s hind legs.
longer pressure is put on the spine, the faster
permanent lesions can develop,” said Magazu. “You
have a better probability of success the faster you
get” into the operating room to repair the damage.
time was of the essence, so was precision in the tricky
surgery, which required minute manipulation and cutting
Andy, St. Francis is taking part in a pilot program with
Thomas Jefferson University’s Health Design Lab, which
is exploring the clinical use of 3D printing for
veterinary patients. Jefferson’s staffers quickly
created a 3D replica of Andy’s damaged spine based on
data from his CT scan that was then used to guide and
inform his surgery the next morning. Andy’s procedure
was the first surgical application of the pilot program.
technology to create models like Andy’s has been
around for a few decades, but it has been extremely
costly and not in widespread use. In recent years,
however, 3D printing is being increasingly explored as
an aid in surgeries and other procedures, especially
those that are highly individualized.
Shine is associate director of Jefferson’s design lab,
which is funded largely by institutional support,
private grants and donor contributions. Shine said
Jefferson’s human 3D models have helped doctors with
complicated surgeries. In the case of a high-risk
pregnant patient whose uterine fibroid growths would
complicate her delivery by cesarean section, the lab
created a 3D model of her uterus to assist her doctors
in determining the best way to deliver her child.
lab’s work with animals is another way of using the
technology to help with individualized health needs.
we can do in human 3D printing can also be applied in
veterinary space,” said Shine, who is also an
assistant professor at Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel
University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan
Veterinary Hospital has been exploring the use of 3D
models for several years, from creating a model skull of
a dog with a suspicious mass to making a prosthesis for
a lot you miss when you’re looking at two
dimensions” — which a CT scan provides — “and
trying to build the three dimensions in your mind,”
said Evelyn Galban, an associate professor of clinical
neurology and neurosurgery at Penn’s vet school, who
is working on further developing 3D printing for
surgical use. “When you can see it and touch it,
there’s a tremendous amount of knowledge you
wouldn’t get from just looking at a screen.”
partnership with St. Francis helps make the technology
available to a community practice. Since it is still
research in progress, though, the cost of the 3D
printing, so far, has not been passed on to its human
patients or the owners of its animal patients.
surgery represented a first in the Jefferson/St. Francis
partnership. But there was another reason everyone hoped
dearly for its success: Robert Young had been under
hospice care at home for months, and his caretakers knew
his end might be near.
what Lorraine was going through,” said Magazu, the St.
Francis vet. “I couldn’t imagine her losing her
husband and losing her dog at the same time. We were
going to try the best we could to not let that
that stoic, canine way, seemed to sense the stakes.
that look,” Magazu said. “‘Do a good job, doc. Get
me better.’ He wasn’t fearful. Andy’s not that
type of dog.”
outcome of spinal surgeries like Andy’s can vary
greatly. Some dogs don’t show improvement for six
weeks. Others never do. But Andy wasn’t just any dog.
started showing small, little responses almost the day
after surgery,” Magazu said. “He started wagging his
tail. He started being able to go to the bathroom on his
McLean, the St. Francis vet who has been working with
Andy on his rehabilitation, believes the 3D assist made
technology provided a faster, more efficient, more
complete surgery, which in hand led to a faster, more
complete physical therapy afterward,” she said.
Young was heartened by the updates she got from St.
Francis staff, who were taking care of Andy at their
Woolwich Township hospital.
however, Robert Young, a retired DuPont chemical
operator, was weakening. After midnight Aug. 6, with his
family gathered around him, he died at age 73.
hours later, St. Francis’ staff sent Lorraine a video
clip: Andy had taken his first postoperative steps.
days later, Lorraine, 72, a retired medical lab
technician, went to visit him with some family. To
everyone’s delight, Andy ran to them — wobbly, but
wagging his tail and giving kisses.
a little bit of a bright spot in my day because I know
he’s doing better, he’ll be coming home,” Lorraine
said. “It won’t be quite the same, not having my
husband here with us. But at least I’ll have Andy
back. And we can kind of move on together.”