Thanks to delicate surgery and a 3-D print face mask, Loca, a 4-month-old female Staffordshire bull terrier, is recovering from a severe attack from another dog.
The attack fractured Loca’s cheekbone and jawbone, extensively damaged her temporomandibular joint, a sliding hinge connecting her jawbone to her skull, according to a UC Davis Veterinary Medicine news release. There were also multiple puncture wounds on her face and neck.
The release provided details about how UCD caregivers planned Loca’s delicate treatment:
Faculty members Drs. Frank Verstraete and Boaz Arzi and resident Dr. Colleen Geisbush of the UC Davis veterinary hospital’s Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service knew Loca’s surgery would be challenging, but there was hope. Loca was young, which meant there was a good chance that the damage to the temporomandibular joint could correct itself with natural bone regrowth. The case also offered them the opportunity to utilize a new face mask they developed with biomedical engineering students.
Designed to be used as a cast for a fractured skull while it heals, the mask was the result of a collaboration between the oral surgeons and the UC Davis College of Engineering.
The Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service has been working with UC Davis College of Engineering Biomedical Engineering students to design an apparatus that could help the healing process of maxillofacial fractures. The result was the Exo-K9 Exoskeleton — a custom, 3D printed exoskeleton for dogs with maxillomandibular injuries.
As soon as Loca arrived at the hospital, Arzi notified the BME students to be ready to print an Exo-K9 if a CT scan showed that she would be an ideal initial case. A cone-beam CT scan showed the extent of the injuries to her facial bones, jawbone, temporomandibular joint, and also a small fracture in the vertebrae of her neck. A salvage surgery was then performed to remove bone fragments from her right cheekbone and right jawbone.
While Loca was recovering from surgery, BME students worked in the Translating Engineering Advances to Medicine Laboratory. Based on Loca’s specifications from her CT scan, the mask’s dimensions would precisely fit her head, and could help optimize the healing process.
Loca did extremely well throughout her three-day hospitalization and began eating soft food. For the next month, Loca was not allowed to play with any toys, chew bones or anything else hard. Her mask and neck collar remained on at all times except to allow her to eat and drink. She was fed a soft diet until her injuries healed.
Loca had a one-month recheck that showed new bone was forming in the place of her former temporomandibular joint.
Almost three months later, Loca received her third cone-beam CT scan which revealed that her previous surgery sites healed well and that the new temporomandibular joint formation was progressing.