The boundaries of veterinary science took a giant step forward in a groundbreaking combination of surgical expertise and bioengineering, which saw the development of a prosthetic implant that allows tendons to literally “grow” into metal and restore total mobility and function.

The boundaries of veterinary science took a giant step forward in a groundbreaking combination of surgical expertise and bioengineering, which saw the development of a prosthetic implant that allows tendons to literally “grow” into metal and restore total mobility and function.

Roly received a prosthetic implant that allows tendons to literally 'grow' into metal and restore total mobility and functionIn March this year, an eight year old male American bulldog called Roly underwent successful surgery at Fitzpatrick Referrals – a specialist veterinary clinic in Surrey – following diagnosis that he was suffering from cancer in his rear hind leg. Nine weeks after the procedure, Roly is able to walk again, thanks to the insertion of a unique metal implant that mirrors the original femur and boasts a tendon in-growth attachment, so that effectively tendons and muscles have been fully re-attached to the artificial limb.

The clinical procedure involved a highly complex two-hour operation, during which Noel Fitzpatrick (one of the world’s leading neuro-orthopaedic veterinary surgeons) replaced the cancerous femur bone and hip joint with a specially constructed artificial prosthesis, while re-attaching the musculature and realigning the relative position of the joint to restore perfect movement to the dog.

Data provided by CT and MRI scanners was used to design and construct an artificial femur which exactly mirrored the original limbThe prosthesis was designed collaboratively by Gordon Blunn (head of the John Scales Centre for Bio-Medical Engineering), Dr Fitzpatrick and Jay Meswania (from specialist implant manufacturer OrthoFitz).

Professor Blunn explained:  “What is significant about the design is the way in which it sandwiches tissue and metal together overlaying the gluteal muscles onto the top of the endoprosthetic femur – alternating tendon, synthetic Dacron mesh, tendon, synthetic Dacron mesh, tendon and finally trabecular metal – which has a honeycomb surface resembling a series of small chambers.  In this way, the hope is that the Sharpeys fibres which attach tendons of muscles to the bone will grow into the trabecular metal surface and permanently adhere to it.”

Dr Fitzpatrick said: “This truly remarkable achievement was made possible through the convergence of biomechanics, biology and surgical innovation. We tapped into the evidence provided by the CT and MRI scanners we have in place at the practice, so that the data collected about Roly during clinical diagnosis was used to design and construct an artificial femur which exactly mirrored his original limb. It has been constructed rather like a telescope – one section fitting inside the adjoining section, so that we get maximum flexibility and traction during motion.”

See next week’s Veterinary Times for further details of the operation.

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