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Cruciate ligament tears are one of the most common orthopedic injuries diagnosed at our clinic and, as the warm days of spring are approaching, we wanted to update you on the state of current treatment options for this serious and all too common problem.

The cruciate ligaments are tough bands of tissue located deep within the knee joint. They help hold the two bones of the knee together, allowing for smooth movement and providing stability to this important joint. The cranial cruciate ligament is the most often injured of the two and the result is significant back leg lameness early on and a lot of arthritis later in life if left untreated.

The treatment options for this injury fall into two broad categories: surgery and conservative medical management. Surgery is the primary type of treatment recommended for cranial cruciate tears, especially in active large breed dogs. Surgery serves to stabilize the knee and its goal is to return the dog to full function and minimize future arthritis. There are two common types of surgical procedures used. The first, which can be performed at our clinic, is known as a lateral suture repair. In this surgery, following an exploration of the joint and cleaning out any damaged tissue; two large gauge nylon sutures are paced just outside the joint to stabilize it. This procedure has been used for many years and generally has good to excellent results. The second surgery is called a Tibal Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). This surgery is performed by a board-certified surgeon and involves rotating a portion of the shin bone and placing a plate and screws to dynamically stabilize the knee. This surgery generally provides excellent results. Both surgeries have 2-3 month recovery times and overall success is highly influenced by attentive after-care and physical therapy.

Conservative medical management of cruciate injuries involves a few different types of treatments.  Initial treatments include using anti-inflammatory medication, joint supporting glucosamine and chondroitin supplements and rest from activity. In addition, we have begun successfully using a joint supporting brace for those dogs for which surgery is not an option. This brace is well tolerated and provides support and stability while allowing for normal mobility. With the brace we have seen very good results and look forward to using them more in the future.

Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with any of the above approaches to help with pain and swelling initially and the management of arthritis chronically. We generally see very good results and this holistic treatment allows us to decrease our reliance on western style drugs and thereby minimize their attendant side effects.

If you are concerned that your dog may have a cruciate injury or have a dog with a recent diagnosis of one please contact us to set up consultation so we can determine the best option for your pet.