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Professor Researches Equine Dental Surgery in Switzerland

February 7, 2007

Elizabeth Boulton, associate professor in the department of animal and nutritional sciences, received a 2006-07 CIE Faculty International Travel grant funded by the VPAA.

Boulton traveled to Switzerland in January to conduct research on the potential for laser equine dental surgery. Below is her report.

“I am extremely grateful to the Center for International Education for supporting my travel to the Musculoskeletal Research Unit (MSRU) of the Pferdeklinik der Vetsuisse (Equine Veterinary Clinic) University of Zurich, Switzerland.

During my fall sabbatical, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Katja Nuss, MSRU, Dr. Stefan Stubinger, Clinic for Reconstructive Surgery, University of Basel and Dr. Anton Furst, Diplomate of the ECVS (European College of Veterinary Surgeons) Pferdeklinik der Vetsuisse on a project examining the feasibility of utilizing either a piezoelectric scalpel or an erbium YAG laser in equine maxillofacial and dental surgery.

Maxillary and frontal sinus osteotomies (bone flaps) were surgically created either with an oscillating bone saw, osteotome (chisel) or piezoelectric scalpel. Surgical times, precision and ease were recorded for comparison of techniques. Osteotomies were grossly evaluated for cut edge irregularities, fractures, carbonization and tissue damage. Portions of the osteotomies were placed in 50% alcohol and fuchsin stain for further histologic evaluation.

The purpose of my recent trip was to perform the same types of osteotomies and evaluations using an erbium YAG laser. An erbium YAG laser had previously successfully been used to create transverse osteotomies in sheep tibias (Nuss,et al, abstract submitted Nov 2006 to the ECVS). We hypothesized that osteotomies performed with either the piezoelectric scalpel or erbium YAG laser would be superior to the oscillating bone saw and osteotome.

However, we experienced technical difficulties using the erbium YAG laser that were not experienced during the experimental transverse tibia osteotomy in sheep. We attempted to use the erbium YAG laser in a similar noncontact mode at 111mJ and 15 Hz. We destroyed 3 mirrors without completing one osteotomy.

So, we changed to a contact fiber head at 600 mJ and 15 Hz but the power was insufficient to cut equine bone. We hypothesized at this point either that the laser was malfunctioning, equine bone density is different than sheep or freezing and thawing equine cadaver skulls changed the bone characteristics.

We were unable to successfully perform frontal and maxillary osteotomies on the equine cadaver skulls with the erbium YAG laser. The laser was returned to the manufacturer for evaluation. Depending upon the manufacturer’s assessment of the laser and noncontact head, we plan to repeat the experiment either late spring or summer. At that point, histology slides from the piezoelectric scalpel, oscillating bone saw and osteotome will be ready for microscopic evaluation.

Again, I thank the CIE for your support. Although I was frustrated and disappointed with the results from my last visit, I am excited and encouraged to return to the MSRU, Pferdeklinik Vetsuisse at the University of Zurich to continue collaboration with international colleagues.”

For more information visit http://www.unh.edu/cie/faculty/faculty_travelrpts_index.html

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