What is Trochlear Sulcoplasty?

Trochlear sulcoplasty is a surgical technique veterinary orthopedic surgeons use to stabilize the patella, commonly known as the knee cap, in canines with the condition known as patella luxation. The patella sits in a channel on the face of the femur (long bone) that acts as a track, giving the knee its hinging movement. In some dogs, especially toy breeds, the channel is too shallow to hold the knee firmly and the patella easily slips off the track. The goal a vet surgeon performing a trochlear sulcoplasty in a dog is to make the channel deeper through the removal of a portion of the bone and joint cartilage. 

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Trochlear Sulcoplasty Procedure in Dogs

Diagnosing a canine with a luxating patella is painless and simply done, as the veterinarian can diagnose the problem by simply applying pressure to the dog’s kneecap, watching the kneecap pop out of place. The veterinarian will confirm his/her diagnosis with radiographs of the joint, which is also helpful in determining the grade of the dog’s condition. A trochlear sulcoplasty is a surgical procedure that requires some degree of bone removal from the knee, so the canine will require sedation and pain medication. 

  1. The canine will be given an injectable sedative, followed by gas anesthetic, supplemented oxygen, and intravenous fluids laced with a heavy pain drug. 
  2. The patient’s limb will be shaved, cleansed, and draped to prepare for the procedure. 
  3. After making an incision to expose the joint, the surgeon will determine the degree of bone and cartilage removal the dog requires (each case is different).
  4. The bone will first be removed in a V shape, then smoothed into a rectangular channel for the patella to reside. A portion of the cartilage may also be removed, or simply pushed to the side during the surgery to be repositioned later. 
  5. Once the channel has been created, the surgeon will test the joint’s mobility before the incision is closed and the canine is allowed into recovery. 

Efficacy of Trochlear Sulcoplasty in Dogs

Trochlear sulcoplasty in dogs is a highly effective surgery, but greatly depends on the grade of the patella luxation. A dog with a grade 2-3 luxation has a more positive outcome than a dog with a grade 4 patella luxation, as a grade 4 luxation might be too severe to fix totally. 

Trochlear Sulcoplasty Recovery in Dogs

Following a  trochlear sulcoplasty, the canine will require a great deal of rest for four to six weeks following the surgical date. After the canine has been reassessed by the veterinarian, physical therapy may be recommended to aid the canine in getting back on his feet. 

Cost of Trochlear Sulcoplasty in Dogs

The cost of luxating patella repair can be expensive. Dog owners should prepare to spend between $2,000 and $3,000 to have a trochlear sulcoplasty performed on their dog.

Dog Trochlear Sulcoplasty Considerations

Possible complications associated with trochlear sulcoplasty include osteoarthritis, infection, and patellar luxation. In addition to these complications, a dog could also experience a delayed healing time. 

Trochlear Sulcoplasty Prevention in Dogs

Trochlear sulcoplasty is used to treat dogs with a patella luxation that is often a hereditary birth defect in many small and toy breed dogs. The need for surgery to correct this ailment cannot be easily prevented, unless you simply choose not to have the surgery completed.