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TPLO Surgery—Repairing the Cruciate Ligament in Dogs

veterinary TPLO surgery for dogs

Park County Veterinary Hospital is fortunate to have a veterinary surgeon who has the advanced training in repairing canine cruciate ligaments using the TPLO surgical procedure. Dr. Ickes spent a significant amount of his advanced training surgical internship performing TPLO surgeries.

What Is the Cruciate Ligament?

Similar to the ACL in humans, the cranial cruciate ligament is responsible for giving the dog’s knee (or stifle) stability.

Part of what is causing the problem with a torn cruciate is that the leg bone just below the knee, called the tibia, has a slant to its surface where the knee joint exists. In a healthy situation, the femur doesn’t slide down the slant of the tibia—it moves in the normal hinged manner you think of with a knee joint. When the cruciate ligament is torn or damaged, the femur slides down the slope of the tibia, the knee cannot hinge properly, and the condition is very painful for the dog.

How Does the Dog’s Ligament Become Damaged?

Dogs prone to damage of the cruciate ligament tend to have had undetected deterioration of the ligament for considerable time prior to becoming lame. A small number of dogs will tear the cruciate ligament from over-exertion in agility trials, Frisbee catching, roughhousing, or other physically straining situations, but for most, it is a problem that has been brewing for some time and only appears as a sudden injury.

How Is a Damaged Cruciate Ligament Diagnosed?

A torn or partially torn cruciate ligament is typically diagnosed using a combination of characteristic physical examination findings and supportive findings on X-rays. While the cruciate ligament cannot be directly visualized on an X-ray, it can support the diagnosis, determine if any pre-existing arthritis is present in the joint, and will be necessary for planning purposes if surgery is recommended.

What Does the Treatment Involve?

There are several different surgical techniques for repairing the cruciate ligament available. The surgery that Dr. Ickes performs is called tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and has been shown to be superior to the other types of surgeries available. Compared to other techniques, TPLO results in:

  • Faster recovery
  • Less chance of arthritis development
  • Better range of motion for the joint
  • Faster return to activity

With TPLO, the top of the tibia is cut and rotated in order to make its surface much less slanted. A plate and pins are used to hold the bone in its new position and allow it to heal. This provides a more stable surface for the femur so that it will stay in the proper position for the knee to hinge and will no longer slide down the tibia.

Depending on your pet’s age, size, and other factors, a similar but less invasive procedure called a lateral suture or extracapsular repair may be recommended. All of the treatment options for cruciate ligament repair will be discussed at the time of your pet’s evaluation.

If you have any questions regarding TPLO or cruciate ligament issues, please contact Park County Animal Hospital for more information.

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