What is Trochlear Recession?

It is possible for some dogs to develop serious knee joint stability problems without incurring a prior injury or otherwise damaging the knee. In some cases, a genetic defect can cause the kneecap to improperly interface with the rest of the knee, causing it to slide out of position. To remedy this, the vet may choose to perform a 'trochlear recession' procedure, whereby a portion of the lower femur is removed to make it more difficult for the kneecap to slide out of position. The effects of the procedure will be permanent, allowing the dog to enjoy an improved range of motion.

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Trochlear Recession Procedure in Dogs

Prior to starting the actual surgery, the dog will have to be sedated with a general anesthetic in order to ensure that the joint remains perfectly still. Also, the dog's knee will have to be shaved and disinfected in order to prevent infection. The surgeon will then cut through and pull back skin to reveal the frontal section of the knee joint. Next, they will move the ligaments and connective tissue away from the kneecap, releasing it and allowing it to be moved to the side. Following this, they will carefully lift the cartilage from the trochlear groove, exposing the channel of bone below. A wedge of bone will be cut out of the groove and resulting channel widened before the wedge is reinserted, now at a lower position. In cases where the channel needs to be made extra deep, a 'block' of bone will be removed instead, thereby depressing a larger area of the trochlear groove. Next, the surgeon will replace the cartilage and patella, using pins to help re-anchor ligaments. The final step is to suture the skin shut over the joint and disinfect the area.

Efficacy of Trochlear Recession in Dogs

In the vast majority of cases, the dog will quickly be able to attain anincreased range of motion with the affected leg. As long as there is no serious injury inflicted on the joint, the dog should enjoy a healthy knee for the rest of its life. For owners who are reluctant to put their dog in the hands of a surgeon, there are some alternative treatment methods available. Namely, regular physiotherapy to build knee strength and anti-inflammatory medication to ease the pain felt by the dog. However, it should be kept in mind that neither of these methods will be truly effective at combatting the condition on a long-term basis.

Trochlear Recession Recovery in Dogs

Following the operation, the dog will need to have its activity severely restricted for several weeks in order to ensure that the tissues in the joint heal properly. They will also require regular doses of painkillers in order to ward off potential discomfort. Furthermore, the vet will almost certainly want to conduct some additional checkups so that they can check that the dog is healing as it should. There are also additional treatment stages that may be offered, such as steroid injections to speed up the joint’s rate of healing and anti-inflammatories to allow faster use of the leg. It is also advisable to make sure the dog receives regular physiotherapy in the months following the surgery, as this can help correct any muscle imbalances that may have developed during the period where the dog was affected by patellar luxation.

Cost of Trochlear Recession in Dogs

Due to the relative complexity of performing the operation, costs for trochlear recession can vary significantly depending on factors such as the age of the dog and the availability of qualified surgeons in the local area. Thus, most owners can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000, with prices possibly increasing if additional related health conditions are present. Alternative treatments, however, can be expected to cost significantly less (at least in the short term). Physiotherapy sessions can cost several hundred dollars per month, and painkillers much less. However, neither of these treatment options will provide a 'cure' for the problem and will be ongoing for the rest of the dog's life, racking up a considerable cost in the process.

Dog Trochlear Recession Considerations

Some people have harbor concerns regarding trochlear recession, mainly worrying that the procedure will leave their pet's knee vulnerable to future injury. In this respect, their concerns are somewhat justified, as damage to the joint in the weeks immediately following the operation can cause improper healing and further problems. If the dog is allowed to heal properly, however, then there should be very little risk of future injury once the tissues have knitted back together. For this reason, it is imperative that owners follow their vet's aftercare guidelines to the letter. That said, it should be kept in mind that trochlear recession is extremely effective at dealing with patellar luxation and without surgical intervention, the dog's problem will most likely only worsen as they age.

Trochlear Recession Prevention in Dogs

The main cause of patellar luxation is a genetic defect resulting in malformation of the knee joint. Despite efforts to screen for the problem, it is virtually impossible to predict its occurrence in newborns without direct knowledge of the condition appearing previously in their lineage. However, associated problems such as cartilage and ligament damage can be avoided by making sure that the dog gets plenty of exercise and is allowed time to rest and recover. This is especially important for working animals, who may be under pressure to regularly exert themselves without adequate rest, potentially putting their joints at risk of developing overuse injuries.