Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO)

TPLO surgery Xray

Ruptured Cruciate Ligaments and TPLO Surgery

We see a lot of pets arriving at the clinic with pain, lameness or limping of a hind leg.  Unfortunately, this usually indicates that they may have ruptured their cranial cruciate ligament (CCL).  Sadly ruptured cruciate ligaments have a huge impact on the mobility and activity of beloved furry friends and without treatment this injury can cause longterm pain and discomfort.

Most CCL ruptures are diagnosed through physical examination of the sore leg and confirmed by Xray. If your furry friend has been diagnosed with a ruptured CCL, you might have heard about a surgical option called Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO).   This surgery is a popular choice for treating CCL injuries in dogs. Most times it can help them regain their mobility and lead a normal life. In this article, we’ll explain what TPLO surgery is, how it works, and what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

What is Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery for dogs?

Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy, or TPLO, is a surgical procedure designed to stabilize the stifle joint in dogs that have a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. The CCL is responsible for maintaining the stability of the stifle joint, which is the equivalent of a human knee. When this ligament ruptures, the joint becomes unstable, leading to lameness, pain, and loss of mobility.

The goal of TPLO surgery is to restore the stability of the stifle joint by changing the geometry of the tibia bone. The Tibia is the bone that runs from the knee to the ankle in the hind leg. During the surgery, the surgeon will cut the tibia bone and rotate the top portion, called the plateau, to a flatter angle. This new angle reduces the amount of force that is placed on the joint. This allows it to move smoothly and without pain.

Dr Michael Heath TPLO surgery
TPLO surgery in progress

What are the benefits of TPLO surgery?

There are several benefits to TPLO surgery, including:

  • Pain relief: TPLO surgery is designed to eliminate pain and discomfort associated with CCL injuries. Once the joint is stabilized, your dog should be able to move around with ease and without pain.
  • Improved mobility: CCL injuries can cause lameness and a decreased range of motion in the hind legs. TPLO surgery can restore your dog’s mobility and allow them to return to their normal activities.
  • Preventing future injuries: Dogs that have had TPLO surgery are less likely to develop arthritis or other joint problems later in life.

What are the benefits of TPLO surgery?

Before your dog undergoes TPLO surgery, you will need a physical examination and diagnostic testing. This may include blood work, X-rays, and other tests to determine the extent of the injury. These tests ensure that your dog is healthy enough for surgery.

You will also need to prepare your home for your dog’s recovery. This may include creating a comfortable space for them to rest and limiting their mobility during the healing process. We will provide specific instructions for your dogs’ post-operative care.

What happens during TPLO surgery?

TPLO surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia and takes a few hours to complete. During the procedure our surgeon, Dr Michael Heath, will make a small incision in the skin and muscle around the knee to access the tibia bone. He will then cut the bone and rotate the top portion to the desired angle. Once the bone is in the correct position,  use plates and screws to hold it in place while it heals. Finally, the incision is closed with sutures or staples.

Dr Michael Heath perfroming TPLO surgery
Post TPLO Surgery

What should I expect after TPLO surgery?

After TPLO surgery, your dog will need time to recover and heal. You will need to limit their activity for several weeks to allow the bone to heal properly. Post-operative care may include pain medication, physical therapy, and follow-up visits to monitor your pets’ healing process.

It’s important to note that TPLO surgery is a major procedure, and there is always some risk involved. However, with proper pre-operative testing and post-operative care, the majority of dogs recover successfully and go on to lead a happy, active life.

Are there any potential complications with TPLO surgery?

Like any surgery, TPLO surgery comes with some risks. Some potential complications may include:

  • Infection at the incision site
  • Bleeding during or after surgery
  • Swelling and pain in the affected limb
  • Implant failure or loosening
  • Nerve damage
  • Post-operative lameness

While these risks may sound alarming, it’s important to remember that TPLO surgery is a common and safe procedure. We always take steps to minimize these risks and provide the best possible care for your dog.

Aseptic Technique to avoid complications of TPLO surgery
Post TPLO recovery

How long does it take for a dog to recover from TPLO surgery?

The recovery time for TPLO surgery can vary depending on the individual dog and the extent of the injury. However, most dogs will need to be restricted from activity for 8-12 weeks following surgery. During this time, your dog will need to wear a cone or other device to prevent them from licking or chewing at the incision site.

You may also need to adjust your dog’s diet and provide them with pain medication or other supplements to help them heal.  We will also monitor your dog’s progress during all follow-up visits.

What are some signs that TPLO surgery was successful?

The success of TPLO surgery can be measured by your dog’s ability to walk and run without pain or limping. You may also notice that your dog’s range of motion has improved and that they are able to engage in their favorite activities again. As a standard of care, we perform post-operative Xrays at 8 weeks to confirm that the bone has healed properly and the surgical plate remains intact. 

It’s important to remember that recovery from TPLO surgery is a gradual process. It may take several weeks or even months to heal. Be patient, it will be ok.  Just follow our post-operative care instructions to ensure the best possible outcome for your furry friend.

TPLO surgery Xray 2
Post TPLO Xray

Deciding whether a TPLO is the best option for your dog

If your dog has been diagnosed with a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, TPLO surgery may be your best option. This surgical procedure is designed to stabilize the stifle joint by changing the geometry of the tibia bone.  Allowing your dog to move around with ease and without pain and restore their mobility and quality of life

While TPLO surgery does come with some risks and requires a period of post-operative care, the benefits of the procedure far outweigh the potential complications. 

If you have any questions about TPLO surgery or about our post-operative care options including acupuncture and rehabilitative massage therapy, be sure to speak with our veterinary team on (03) 5976 4629. They can provide you with more information about the surgery and help you determine if it’s the right choice for your furry friend.