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Massachusetts hen Cicely to receive $2500 3D printed prosthetic leg this week
Posted by 3DP4E

By Alec |

We’ve already known for a while that 3D printing is a perfect technology for making arm and hand prostheses in all shapes and sizes. But who says only humans should benefit from this exciting technology? Fortunately, more and more animals who have lost limbs are also benefitting from 3D printing, like Hobbes the three-legged dog. However, one chicken from Massachusetts called Cicely is about to get a treatment much more luxurious than something 3D printed on a desktop 3D printer: a $2,500 prosthetic limb.

Hen Cicely is currently living on the Black Thistle Farm, about 45 miles west of Boston. Fortunately for her, owner and poultry behaviorist Andrea Martin specializes in chicken rehabilitation.

‘It slipped out of position, and the leg becomes useless,’ the owner explained.

– Andrea Martin

So when Cicely tore a tendon in her right leg, she wasn’t turned into KFC, but was instead taken to the Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for a check-up. There, Martin was presented with two options for Cicely: either receive a custom prosthesis, or be put down.

Though millions of chicken are bred yearly for the sole purpose of killing them later, Martin’s love for her flock is exactly what is saving the life of Cicely.

‘It was a no-brainer,’ Martin told reporters. ‘She needs to be able to live a normal life. Anytime you do surgery on a bird, it's a risk. But I am optimistic. I think this will make her very happy. It's worth it.’

– Andrea Martin

Martin will pay for the $2500 operation herself, having previously paid the bill for a $3000 hysterectomy on another bird last year.

The surgery in question will take place at the Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, where avian orthopedics specialist and surgeon Dr. Emi Knafo will first amputate the useless leg, before making a CT scan of the remaining leg. Cicely will go home for two weeks to recuperate, while the prosthetic will be 3D printed in the mean time. Similar surgeries have been performed on animals before, but Knafo has never worked with chickens like this and believes it has never been done before.

As the doctor explained, the condition is quite common but problematic in birds.

‘The foot tendons contract in an abnormal place. It puts them at risk for sores and infections, and the choices were euthanasia, or try to manage it with pain medication. It could be an uncomfortable life. But as a veterinarian, we always try to evaluate and intervene in a positive way,’ Knafo explained. ‘People would not think twice about it (the procedure) for another kind of animal. We want to give her as much of a pain-free life as possible.’

– Dr. Emi Knafo

While the 3D printing portion of this ambitious plan is fairly straightforward, the surgery itself could be a bit problematic.

‘You just don’t know if it will work until after it’s done,’ she told reporters, adding that the anesthesia is the most dangerous part of the entire operation.

– Andrea Martin

Martin, however, is hopeful and is already thinking about the future. Once the entire thing is over, Martin is planning to write a children’s book about the experience.

‘[Cicely] needs to tell her story’, she said.

– Andrea Martin

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Posted on July 15, 2014

By Merixtell Garcia Sein-Echaluce | Inside 3DP