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July 17, 2007

MSU veterinarians use minimally invasive technique to repair dog knees

EAST LANSING, Mich. — For humans, arthroscopic surgery – a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose and sometimes repair minor damage to knees, shoulders and other joints – is almost as common as the X-ray. 

At Michigan State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, this procedure is now being used on dogs, offering them the same advantages it provides people.

“Many dog owners have had similar surgeries,” said Jennifer Au, an MSU veterinarian and orthopedic surgeon. “They know that the recovery time is shorter and that it’s more comfortable then having an incision made through the entire knee.”

Instead of opening up the dog’s knee with one large incision, several small incisions are made around the knee. It is through these small holes that the surgeons insert a camera to actually see what might be wrong with the knee and then take steps to repair the damage.

“This is both a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure,” Au said. “Instead of opening up the knee from top to bottom, we can go in through two little portals and look around. We can also do the repair at the same time.”

The repair is a minimally invasive stabilization of the knee using a procedure known as minimally invasive modified retinacular imbrication technique, or MI-MRIT. It is done by passing the suture normally used with an open approach through two small incisions in addition to the two small scope portals or holes.

“Cruciate and meniscal ligament injuries are the most common orthopedic conditions we see,” said Au. “A lot of times there is an assault that pushes it over the edge, and often that involves squirrel chasing – some motion in which the dog plants and turns or stops short.”

MSU is one of a very few places in the country doing the combined arthroscopy with the MI-MRIT.

“MSU has long been a leader in orthopedic surgery and has recently established itself as an early adopter in the field of minimally invasive surgical techniques for dogs and other animals,” said Patrick LeBlanc, director of the MSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “Dr. Au’s work blends the two.”

The MSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Minimally Invasive Therapeutic Initiative covers a wide range of procedures, including interventional radiology, laparoscopic and thoracoscopic procedures, as well as minimally invasive management of traumatic orthopedic injuries.

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