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What is Joint Capsule Reconstruction?

The term 'joint capsule' refers to a pocket of fibrous tissue and ligaments that encloses many of the joints in an animal's body. This tissue helps keep the joint in place and maintains the integrity of many of the more delicate tissues within the structure. However, if the joint capsule becomes badly damaged, it can result in the other tissues becoming damaged, resulting in significant pain and inflammation. To prevent this, the vet could decide to rebuild the capsule, thereby maintaining the stability of the joint and preventing the need for more drastic measures to solve the problem.

Joint Capsule Reconstruction Procedure in Cats

Prior to beginning the surgery, the cat will have the relevant part of its body shaved and cleaned in preparation for an incision to be made. However, the majority of surgery on joints (which can be generally classed under orthopedic surgery) is carried out using a keyhole incision through which a tiny camera and instruments are passed. After this, the surgeon is free to work within the confines of the joint and is able to see how the parts are interacting within the limb and each other. The next step is for the surgeon to anchor the damaged ligaments back together or back onto the bone. This can be quite a laborious process, taking almost three hours to complete one knee in some cases. An alternative method involves shearing off bone around the joint and replacing it with a metal plate in order to ensure that the contact point between the two bones is both comfortable and smooth to use. Whilst more intrusive than keyhole surgery, this method has proven very popular across the country for rectifying major joint problems in a number of smaller animals.

Efficacy of Joint Capsule Reconstruction in Cats

It will take some time before the effects of the surgery become apparent, due to the fact that ligaments are exceptionally slow-healing.  That said, if the cat heals properly their joint could go on to be problem-free for the rest of their life, so ensuring that they receive proper aftercare is crucial. Instead of rebuilding a destroyed joint, some vets may wish to explore options such as amputation. Whilst less expensive than ligament surgery, amputation carries with it a far greater risk of complications and also has a far bigger impact on the cat's quality of life than might be at first expected. Instead, it should be regarded as a last resort.

Joint Capsule Reconstruction Recovery in Cats

Most cats will take at least eight weeks to make a full recovery and return to normal, but older felines could take even longer. As such, owners will have to dramatically cut down on the amount of activity that the animal is allowed each day, as every movement by the cat could degrade the surgeon's work by straining newly-repaired ligaments. Understandably, the cat may need a certain amount of painkillers and antibiotics to keep potential complications at bay. There will also be a degree of physiotherapy for the animal to go through before it can resume its typical level of activity, necessitating a series of regular follow-up appointments.

Cost of Joint Capsule Reconstruction in Cats

The average price of a joint capsule reconstruction for a cat is roughly between $500 and $2,000. This cost can vary significantly depending on the exact type of surgery being performed (keyhole surgery being quite expensive and a metal plate less so). Amputation of the limb meanwhile, will command a roughly comparable fee of just over $700 on average (depending on the exact type of procedure required).

Cat Joint Capsule Reconstruction Considerations

Before deciding to pursue a joint capsule reconstruction for their pet, an owner may understandably have some reservations about the procedure owing to certain risk factors. The first of these is the possibility of the surgical wound developing an infection, which will cause more damage to both the joint and the cat as a whole. With keyhole surgery, the risk of this is minimal owing to the extremely small size of the wound. Combined with a course of antibiotic drugs, this will almost guarantee the inability of an infection to take root. The second potential problem is the chance that the procedure may result in more damage to the joint if it does not heal properly, though provided the proper aftercare is administered, the risk of this is minimal.

Joint Capsule Reconstruction Prevention in Cats

The injuries associated with damage to the joint capsule tend to be somewhat rare in cats due to their natural levels of agility. However, cats suffering from conditions such as malnutrition or obesity are at risk of developing joint problems due to a lack of muscle tone or having to carry around too much excess weight respectively. If owners make sure to feed their cat a healthy diet that is filled with plenty of protein and delivered in appropriate portion sizes, this will help eliminate two of the most common causes of joint injuries in domestic cats.