The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

3D model helps vets learn to sample dog spinal fluid

Anatomical model of canine lower spine enables specialists to practise challenging lumbar puncture procedure.

A newly developed 3D model could help vets master the difficult procedure of sampling spinal fluid from dogs.

Experts at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Edinburgh College of Art have collaborated to develop their model, which replicates a healthy dog’s lower back.

The plastic structure is fitted with synthetic materials and a system of fluids to mimic the lumbrosacral vertebral column, or lower back, of a live dog, and vets can use it to draw spinal fluid as they would in a living patient.

Vets specialising in neurology could use the model to practise the procedure, commonly used in dogs with neurological disease to aid the diagnosis of auto-immune and infectious conditions, some types of cancers and other forms of spinal cord disease.

The model allows vets to learn in an efficient, low-risk approach to mastering a technically difficult procedure.

Model development

The prototype model was designed based on CT scan images of healthy dogs from the Vet School’s image archive.

Collaborators at the Edinburgh College of Art used the CT images to produce a life-sized and anatomically precise 3D-printed model of the lumbar vertebrae – bones in the lower back – and pelvis.

Latex tubing containing saline was placed within the structure to represent spinal fluid. Foam was used to shape ligaments and gel used to characterise soft tissues.

The final model was then placed inside a dummy dog which could be positioned in exactly the same way as patients undergoing this procedure.

Experts who took part in validating the model, which was also tested by vet students, reported that it was realistic and a good representation of a living patient.

Researchers say their design is a useful proof of concept for the application of 3D printing in developing anatomical models for teaching purposes.

Their design is available to all, enabling future studies to develop or adapt it for similar or alternative procedures.

The study is published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.

Our simulator offers a valuable resource to teach students and veterinary specialists in training how to perform this challenging procedure. We hope it will prove useful as a novel, low cost, anatomically precise tool that will help vets develop their abilities and gain confidence.

Dr Megan MaddenResident in Small Animal Neurology & Neurosurgery

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About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.    

The School comprises:   

  The Roslin Institute   

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems   

The Roslin Innovation Centre   

The Hospital for Small Animals   

Equine Veterinary Services   

Farm Animal Services   

Easter Bush Pathology   

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education   

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.