Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy

The cruciate ligaments are ligaments that cross, or cruciate, the knee, joining the femur and the tibia, and are prone to injury. Such damage is common in dogs, but rarely occurs in cats. The knee is a complex and relatively unstable joint. The cruciate ligaments, both anterior and posterior, help to maintain the knee's stability during a wide range of motion, letting it work as a hinge, but restricting its side to side movement. When these ligaments are torn or ruptured, the animal becomes unstable and possibly lame, and eventually arthritis sets in. Usually, the injury, although it may appear to occur suddenly, has been coming on for some time. Breeds commonly affected include labrador retrievers, rottweilers, akitas, border collies, huskies, german shepherds, and mastiffs.

Tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, also known as TPLO, is a surgical procedure used to treat cranial cruciate ligament failure or injury in dogs. Although there are many treatment options available for a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, TPLO often provides the shortest recovery time and provides the strongest support of the operated leg. The benefits of TPLO surgery compared to other types of surgical treatment include:

  • Rapid recovery
  • Prevention of arthritis
  • Better range of joint motion
  • Full function of limbs
  • Return to all regular activity

TPLO surgery is performed to prevent the joint from slipping on the ruptured ligament. During the surgery, the tibial plateau is surgically leveled to stop the forward motion of the tibia. A curved cut is made in the top of the tibia and the bone is rotated in order to level the slope of the tibial plateau. A plate and six to eight screws are used to hold the bones in place. The cut in the bone will heal in about 6 to 8 weeks. After the procedure, medication is prescribed to reduce swelling and control pain. Follow-up care should be scheduled with the veterinarian to monitor healing.

Full recovery and return to all regular activities takes about six months. After TPLO surgery, over 90 percent of dogs are expected to resume an active lifestyle with no complications. In addition, the TPLO procedure may help to minimize the progression of degenerative joint disease.

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