Animal Science and Engineering Researchers Accomplice to Enhance Veterinary Process

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Above, from left, are the students Davina D’Angelo and Sam Stephens; below Professors Morten Jensen and Lauren Thomas.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Arkansas have come together to develop a surgical tray, currently in clinical testing, to make a common veterinary procedure safer and more effective.

The faculty and students at Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food, and Life Sciences are collaborating with researchers from the College of Engineering to develop a novel spoon that will help veterinarians more effectively remove bladder stones from pets – a common practice in the veterinary industry.

The collaboration includes Lauren Thomas, a veterinary surgeon and clinical assistant professor of animal sciences; Davina D’Angelo, her student; Morten Jensen, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; and Sam Stephens, a research engineer and graduate student in Jensen’s laboratory.

The project combines the expertise and experience of Thomas and D’Angelo in veterinary medicine with the expertise of Jensen and Stephens in the design and manufacture of medical devices. The team created a series of 3D printed spoons that are currently being clinically tested by local veterinary clinics to better remove bladder stones in animals. The trays have been optimized using computer simulations and mechanical tests, and the team is currently evaluating feedback from the clinics.

D’Angelo, an honored student in the final year of her undergraduate degree, approached Thomas about the sophomore after spending a few hours at a local veterinary clinic observing a series of cystotomy surgeries. Thomas then contacted Jensen to add technical design expertise to the team.

“For many local vets, the available stone extraction methods are often limited to using a traditional tablespoon, teaspoon, or rinsing out the stones by inserting a urinary catheter through the urinary tract,” said D’Angelo. “Often times, these methods still make it difficult to remove all the stones, especially the small ones that can be up to a few millimeters in size.”

Left behind stones can cause a variety of problems in animals, including infection and recurrence of future stones.

Thomas said the research addresses a real need for veterinarians.

“Bladder stones are a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect a wide variety of pet species,” she said. “There are a few different methods of removing the stones, but depending on the type of animal we are dealing with and the location and type of stone, removing all of them safely can be difficult. These spoons will do the trick Give veterinarians a bespoke tool designed with animal patient safety, stone removal effectiveness, and anesthesia efficiency in mind. If we can reduce the time it takes veterinarians to perform this procedure, the time it takes will decrease Spends the animal under anesthesia, which is safer for the animal, saves the customer money, and improves the likelihood of getting any unwanted stones out of the bladder. It’s a win on all fronts. “

Jensen said the project is an excellent opportunity to build fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration. “We have used our experience of working with clinicians in device design, simulation, prototyping and testing to expand and participate in this unique partnership between the faculty and students at the two colleges.”

D’Angelo credited her mentors at the Faithful Friends veterinary clinic in Rogers, saying the entire experience helped her take a big step towards her goals.

“I am grateful to the faculty at the University of Arkansas for their willingness to work together and innovate on behalf of veterinary medicine,” she said. “I acquired biomedical engineering and laboratory skills that will advance my vet education. My goal is to have an impact on the health of our pets.”

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