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Titanium implant for 'bionic' dog

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: May 30, 2012

  • Calvin's bionic knee.

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A CORNISH vet claims to have created the Duchy's first bionic dog by fitting the family pet with a metal knee.

Ian Gibbs, 35, who lives in Wadebridge and works at Calweton Veterinary Group in Callington, performed the pioneering surgery, repairing ten-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog Calvin's damaged cruciate ligament using a titanium foam implant.

Calvin suddenly became lame after rupturing the ligament, which stabilises the knee joint.

Mr Gibbs is one of three vets in Cornwall to hold a certificate in small animal surgery, allowing him to perform the operation.

"The titanium implant, a metal more commonly found in space shuttles than veterinary centres, is designed to mimic the structure of coral reefs," he said.

"This allows new bone to grow into the pores, incorporating the wedge into the leg bone, making the leg truly bionic."

Such operations would be rolled out to the Saltash surgery in June, he said.

Calvin's owner Charlotte Gibbs, 32, said: "Calvin's other cruciate ligament went back in January and he had the traditional surgery.

"It went well, but this time we decided to do a new technique and the recovery time has been so much better.

"He's been able to put weight on it straight away and the surgery was faster, so he didn't have as long under the anaesthetic, which for a dog of his age is quite important."

Mr Gibbs said the operation cost around £1,200.

"It's not cheap," said Mrs Gibbs, a former veterinary nurse.

"With his knees going, we didn't have a lot of choice; it's something we had to do.

"He's fit and healthy and he's part of the family."

Mrs Gibbs said Bernese Mountain Dogs' normal life expectancy was only 6 to 8 years.

"It makes me chuckle that he's bionic because he's the stupidest dog you've ever met and now he's like a superhero," she said.

"I'm very impressed how quickly he's recovered.

"It's just a case of keeping him calm and stopping him bouncing round like an idiot."

She said Calvin found it difficult to walk on the slippery floor but had just started to go for little walks to St Breock School where their daughter Sophie, 5, is a pupil.

The couple's other daughter, Lauren, 20 months, is hearing-impaired and Mrs Gibbs is her full- time carer.

She makes headbands which hold hearing aids in place and sells them via a Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/JtGbrc

"It's what I did for Lauren, because she kept pulling them out," said Mrs Gibbs.

"When they get to about four months they pull them out and try to eat them.

"I've made more than 20 headbands now and have a lady in America who's taken a few."

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  • Colwhiting  |  May 31 2012, 10:53PM

    Nice to see Calvin is doing well. Some colleagues drew my attention to this story and it is nice to see some good news stories about the veterinary profession here in Cornwall. If I can add to the descriptions of techniques, of the 279 operations for this condition I have performed at Cornwall's veterinary referral hospital in St Columb Major over the last five years, the last 26 have used titanium implants for three different techniques. New techniques are being described frequently for cruciate ligament disease and we have performed the procedure illustrated here on three patients recently. This procedure is a simplification of a previous technique we have employed on twenty occasions over the last year using a titanium cage to stabilise the kneecap tendon attachment. The new procedure is welcomed amongst orthopaedic surgeons as being swift to perform with initial results being very favourable, although it should be emphasised that in comparing outcomes in individual patients, any surgical complications encountered should be declared and taken into consideration. Cruciate Ligament failure is the most common surgical orthopaedic condition in the dog. Without getting too technical, procedures that aim to change how weight acts through the knee such as this technique (which was first described by a surgeon for people in the 1970's) involve making a cut in the top of the shin bone and either rotating the floor of the knee backwards or moving the attachment of the kneecap forwards. This can restore stability to a knee with a ruptured cruciate ligament by rebalancing the load going through it when the dog is walking. I perform six different cruciate procedures most frequently, according to which procedure is best suited for the individual patient after explanation and discussion with the owner and this procedure is a welcome addition to our available techniques. Colin Whiting BVSc CertSAS MRCVS Orthopaedic, Spinal and Soft Tissue Surgeon A30Referrals, Penmellyn Veterinary Group St Columb Major Cornwall

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