TPLO Frequently Asked Questions
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Is ACL or CCL surgery a time-sensitive procedure? What happens if I wait?
Yes and no. An ACL injury is not an emergency surgical procedure. However, our biggest concern is your pet’s quality of life. As a general rule, we strongly feel the earlier we can address the injury, the more we can slow the progression of arthritis and the faster we can improve comfort in your pet’s knee. Assuming we can address your pet’s discomfort with an appropriate medical protocol, then the only drawback of waiting is that arthritis can continue to progress. If you are on the fence about deciding between medical or surgical management, there is typically little harm in not rushing the decision until you and your family can decide what is the best course of action.
My dog has ruptured both ACL’s – can we do surgery on both legs at once?
Yes, however, this can often be a very difficult decision for both a pet owner and the veterinary surgeon. What may be good for one family, may not be best for the next. So let’s look at the pros and cons. We know that approximately half of all patients who tear one ACL will go on to tear the other, and it is not uncommon to examine patients that have ruptured both ligaments at the time of diagnosis. Performing surgery on both knees at once means your pet goes through one anesthetic episode, one surgery, one period of hospitalization, and one rehabilitation period. It is also more economical to perform both surgeries at once. However, it is known that increased duration of anesthesia time and surgical time can increase the risk of surgical complications, specifically infection. In addition, if surgery is performed on both limbs at once, then your pet literally doesn’t have a good leg to stand on in the immediate post-operative recovery. However, if surgery is performed on only one knee, and the other is affected by a cruciate tear, then once the surgical limb is feeling better than the injured limb (which may be only days following surgery), then more weight is born by the surgical limb, and thus there is more stress on that implant. With surgery done on both limbs at once, stress on the implants may be minimized assuming weight-bearing is symmetrical. Though older literature advised steering clear of performing bilateral TPLO’s, with recent advances in implant technology the most recent peer-reviewed literature on the subject has shown no difference in the complication rate when performing single-session bilateral TPLO’s over staged TPLO’s.
How long does TPLO surgery take?
Will my pet experience any pain?
Patients typically receive a combination of pre-, intra-, and post-operative injectable pain medications (morphine, hydromorphone, etc). In addition, epidural or local anesthetic blocks are often given to help reduce pain. Finally, patients will also be sent home with oral pain management and anti-inflammatory medications.
Does my dog need x-rays before surgery?
Yes. Radiographs (x-rays) of the knee are required prior to surgery so that the tibial plateau angle can be measure. This is required to determine how much the small top segment of the tibia must be rotated. This x-ray is typically best performed on a sedated patient so precise patient positioning can be obtained.
Does my dog need blood work prior to surgery?
In most cases, yes. Most patients with ACL tears are happy, healthy, middle-aged dogs. However, we want to ensure the highest care is being provided to you and your pet, and attention to detail is part of this. A patient’s overall health is important to know prior to anesthesia. Blood work allows us to evaluate certain vital organ functions prior to administering medications that alter the body’s physiology.
Can my dog eat and drink the day of surgery?
Your pet can eat and drink the evening before surgery. The morning of surgery, small amounts of water are allowed but food should be withheld.
What do I need to bring to the hospital?
Bring all medications your pet is currently taking and all previous medical records.
Should my pet’s activity be restricted prior to surgery?
Once an ACL tear is diagnosed, institution of a medical management protocol can be immediately instituted, including limiting activity to controlled leash-walks.
My pet’s surgery is coming up soon and I still have questions. Should I just wait until the day of surgery to have these answered?
NO! We want you to be calm and stress free when dropping your pet off at the hospital. In order to ensure this, please call when you have questions so that we can help you work through the decision making process.
Where does my pet stay the night of surgery?
For most cases, patients are hospitalized overnight at our hospital. Medications can be administered to ensure your pet is comfortable overnight so they can rest in a quiet environment.
What happens if there are complications after surgery?
Approximately 10% of patients that undergo a TPLO surgery have complications of one sort or another. Most often these complications are minor (swelling, bruising, inflammation). We expect to be fully invested in your dog’s recovery. If complications occur post-operatively, we work directly with you to make sure your pet returns to peak potential as soon as possible. It is important to remember that even if your pet endures a complication, a good to excellent outcome can still be obtained.
My dog hasn’t pooped since surgery – what’s going on?
Patients undergoing surgery are typically fasted the night before surgery, and may not eat normally the evening or day following surgery. In addition, they have undergone anesthesia and receive pain medications, which can slow down motility of the intestinal tract. For these reasons, it is not uncommon for patients to go up to 5 days following surgery without a bowel movement.
Why won’t my dog eat since surgery?
It’s not uncommon for dogs to not want to eat the evening after surgery. Sometimes, this may even extend into the day or two following surgery. If this is the case, feel free to offer a diet of bland food – boiled chicken (no skin or spices), white rice, low-fat cottage cheese, or plain yogurt. Warming the food may also help entice them to eat. Other options may include baby food or canned dog food.
My pet is vomiting after surgery – what should I do?
Remember that your pet has just gone through an anesthetic event and is then placed on multiple medications including antibiotics, pain medications, and typically a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as carprofen. If your pet is only a day or two out from surgery, the vomiting or regurgitation may still be associated with the anesthesia and should subside. If there is a concern that the vomiting may be associated with a medication, it’s a good idea to try and spread out the medications by a couple of hours. Typically, if a medication leads to vomiting you may see signs of nausea (drooling or inappetence) within an hour or two of administration. Medications may be stopped or changed to a separate drug if necessary. Please contact us if your pet is vomiting after surgery.
What do I do if my dog is in pain?
Prior to administering any medications, please consult with us. Anti-inflammatories such as carprofen or Metacam are options in patients with healthy kidney and liver function with no current gastrointestinal upset. Other medication options may include narcotic medication such as tramadol, butorphanol, or fentanyl. Other options can include icing the incision site with a bag of frozen peas, which conforms nicely to the leg.
Does my dog really need to wear this ridiculous cone of shame?
Licking or chewing at the incision site can lead to premature removal of the sutures and/or incisional site infection, both of which can require a second procedure to repair. Your pet should not be able to lick or chew at the incision until it is completely healed and the sutures have been removed. If you are by your pet’s side, you may remove the e-collar temporarily. However, it takes only a few short moments for a pet to cause significant trauma to the surgery site. If you leave your pet’s side, the cone of shame or a similar product should be utilized.
Why is my dog still limping after TPLO surgery?
In most cases, persistent lameness following TPLO is associated with post-surgical inflammation, soft tissue associated pain, or pain within the joint secondary to damage caused by the cruciate ligament injury (severe cartilage disease or arthritis). Other potential causes of lameness following TPLO include meniscal injuries and infection.
Rare causes of lameness could include implant failure, fibular fracture, or fracture of the patella (knee cap).
Can a dog re-tear the CCL after TPLO surgery?
However, whether your pet has a partial or a complete tear of the CCL during TPLO surgery — and whether the remainder of the ligament is left intact or it is completely removed — further need for the CCL and additional procedures would be highly unlikely.
What are the potential complications?
As with any procedure, there are always potential risks with surgery.
- Anesthesia – Anesthetic complications are very rare. Hospitals typically provide extensive anesthetic monitoring including EKG, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, end-tidal CO2 measurements, heart rate, and respiratory rate.
- Implant failure – When implant failure happens, the plate or screws could bend or break following surgery. Implant failure is very rare because TPLO plate designs and locking screw technology significantly reduce the risk.
- Infection – Post-operative TPLO infections may occur in approximately 5-10% of patients. Owners can prevent infection by preventing the licking or biting of the incision site. Antibiotics can help treat surgical site infections.
- Post-operative meniscal injuries – The risk of post-operative meniscal injury is approximately 10%. The patient may need additional surgery, or their surgeon could recommend rest, anti-inflammatories, and joint supplements.
Other uncommon complications include fibular fracture, patellar fracture, implant-associated discomfort, and osteosarcoma.
How long will it take until my dog can walk after TPLO surgery?
"TPLO Orange County (OC VCA) is an outstanding practice with the most knowledgeable staff and doctors around. You cannot beat the quality of care that you will find at this location."
"Very clean and friendly environment that treated my pet with great care. You can tell they do their absolute best to take care of the needs of all the pets that come by."