Like pilots, surgeons must exercise before they can fly alone. For veterinarians in training and in the final year of school, this means learning by observing a real procedure on a real animal and maybe even doing some of it on their own. Another option is the practical work with a dog cadaver, which has its own disadvantages, including making sure they are thawed at the right time.
However, veterinary students at Cornell University have been performing procedures on synthetic canine carcasses – a way for them to gain significant surgical experience without having to operate on a real animal.
The artificial dogs come from a company called SynDaver Labs, which creates what their CEO and founder, Christopher Sakezles, calls "tissue analogs." They are known for their human synthesizer. Sakezles made an appearance on Shark Tank in 2015. -And their first-generation corpse was released in 2017. In addition to Cornell, institutions such as the University of Florida and Texas A & M University also own a number of synthetic canines of SynDaver Labs. According to Sakezles, the company creates the fabric with water, salt and synthetic or vegetable fibers, such as polyester.
Cornell has had three artificial canines for about six months, although only one is the complete body: the other two simulate only the abdomen of the animal.
So why synthetic corpses?
The Cornell University Animal Hospital tends to see difficult cases – it receives animals from other areas in high-risk situations. "Our workload is usually about things that general practitioners are not comfortable cutting," says Galina Hayes, assistant professor of small animal surgery at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. . In other words, this is not the ideal place for veterinary students who want to gain practical experience by acquiring basic skills.
"The cases are not only complex, but the patients are often unstable," she says. Unstable cases mean that animal patients should not be kept under anesthetic for longer than necessary. "Trying to keep a short period of anesthesia, combined with a novice surgeon, are two incompatible goals."
Hence the need for synthetic corpses, which are actually a better option than a real dog corpse. "Almost as soon as a dog, or a human from somewhere else, dies, the bowel starts to break down and you can not suture it realistically anymore," she says, noting that the intestines are becoming tissue paper as. These are not the only problems posed by real corpses. "They have to be thawed three days before you want to use them."
Synthetic corpses also mean that another brutal and confusing option does not need to be taken into account. This is called a killing procedure, in which a veterinary student practices more than one procedure on a live but anesthetized dog, which is then euthanized. "Fortunately, the general trend is to move away from that," Hayes said. (She says this option was of no interest to them.)
Logistically, when synthetic canines are not used, they must be stored in a liquid so as not to dry out. Sakezles says they would be like a cooked spaghetti noodle left on the counter; thus, they are immersed in treated water in the same way as the pools' water to prevent the proliferation of fungi or bacteria responsible for the stench.
"So our basement looks like a Frankenstein monster, with these dogs dragging in their tanks and all the parts of organs drifting in their tanks," laughs Hayes.
SynDaver Labs is currently working on a synthetic equine (not a full horse, but horse parts, like a head-neck simulator) and a cat intended for dissection in schools and not for veterinarians practicing their skills.
At Cornell, Hayes says the SynDavers do not look like a real living canine, but offer a more realistic work experience than a live corpse. "We are much happier with the level of training that we are able to provide to these children," added Hayes. And this hands-on training is the key. "Most of that is recognizing that surgeons are made, not born."