Dr Paul Eason BVM&S MANZCVS
Damage to the cruciate ligament in dogs’ knee joints is an extremely common injury, and we see cases every week. In most cases, these require surgery to stabilise the joint in order to get a good outcome.
There are many different operations available, but in the last 15 years the move in larger dogs has been away from the traditional nylon prosthetic ligaments and towards reconstructing the joint completely, such that they do not need the ligament any more. This involves cutting the shin bone in a variety of ways, then realigning the bones and securing them with metal plates, pins, and screws.
More recently still, has been the development of 3D-printed titanium mesh implants to use in one of the operations instead of the normal stainless steel. The titanium mesh provides not only incredibly strong structural support, but allows the tissue to grow into and through the titanium mesh, eventually forming a mix of titanium and bone. This allows greatly improved stability much sooner after surgery, and a much stronger construct. Titanium is also much more resistant to infection than stainless steel.
The technology was developed by Dr Brent Higgins and Seamus Tredinnick at OssAbility, a Christchurch based company which works to develop innovative new products and systems to help us repair your pets more successfully. We have been using these implants at Franklin Vets Pukekohe for the last 18 months.
Scottie is a seven-year-old Welsh Springer Spaniel who snapped both his cruciate ligaments. This can be a devastating injury since both joints need surgery, meaning three months recovery after each operation. The new titanium implant, used in an operation called a tibial tuberosity advancement, made such a stable joint that the two operations were done only eight days apart, and Scottie is now walking normally at four weeks after the second operation. We have also done both joints on a Doberman only five days apart, with great success.
It is likely only a matter of time before we do both joints in a dog on the same day, thus dramatically reducing the rehabilitation time.
The patient comfort level after this surgery is generally excellent. They are normally walking on the leg the day after surgery, and off all medication at 14 days.
Investment in this new kind of technology is exciting and rewarding for us as vets, and of course highly beneficial for the patients! Watch out for more 3D printed implants in the future, we’re likely to see this field develop rapidly.
CAPTION: An x-ray showing Scottie Cole after his operation, with the new titanium wedge.
CAPTION: Scottie Cole has a new lease on life thanks to a titanium wedge.
Below: The titanium wedge
mesh provides not only incredibly strong structural support, but allows the tissue to grow into and through the titanium mesh.