Rehabilitation After Cruciate Ligament Repair
Read our newsletter on Cruciate Repair
Cranial cruciate ligament injuries of the stifle (knee) are a common occurrence in dogs. Tears to the cruciate ligament can occur from trauma, but more often it is a result of a slow degenerative process that compromises the ligament and results in tearing. The cruciate ligament provides stability to the stifle joint: without this stability excessive motion occurs at the stifle joint which leads to progressive Osteoarthritis (OA). Surgical treatment is most often preferred to stabilize this joint, reduce muscle atrophy and minimize the degenerative changes that can occur with more conservative non-surgical management. There are a variety of surgical procedures to repair a torn cruciate ligament: two of the most common are the tibial plateu leveling osteotomy (TPLO) and the extracapsular repair.
In human medicine, physical therapy is the standard of care following surgery for a cruciate injury. In veterinary medicine it is now recognized that animals are benefiting from the same treatment protocols and technologies used in human physical therapy. Studies now document the benefits of early rehabilitation intervention in improving joint range of motion, improving muscle mass, improving weight bearing, minimizing the progression of OA and accelerating the recovery process to ultimately restore function and mobility. Rehabilitation is also important in minimizing the risk of injury to the opposite limb.
Rehabilitation can begin immediately after surgery to help minimize post operative swelling and pain, increase range of motion and promote controlled weight bearing. As the tissues heal there are a variety of therapeutic interventions that can be implemented to restore full range of motion and strength, improve balance and increase overall fitness and mobility. Treatment plans may include manual techniques such as massage, passive range of motion or joint mobilization techniques, therapeutic exercise, aquatic therapy such as the underwater treadmill and modalities such as heat or cold packs, cold laser therapy and neuromuscular stimulation. Each treatment plan is individualized based on the particular needs of the patients and owners. Home exercise programs and owner education are an important component of the rehabilitation program.
Please contact our rehabilitation specialists at 610-696-8712 to set up a consultation if your dog has been diagnosed with cruciate ligament disease.