ACL Surgery

ACL surgery is needed when an animal has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. This is a key ligament that stabilizes the knee and lets it move normally. 


There are several procedures that can be used to surgically stabilize the joint. The two we most commonly use are the extracapsular repair technique and the TPLO. There are some important things to know when considering this type of surgery. These procedures are very helpful to the patient but they don't make the knee like new, so there is some amount of arthritis that develops. These surgeries help with that, and the TPLO seems to help the most. 

Torn ACL is a common problem with the knees of both dogs and cats. There are several procedures that can be performed. The particular procedure that is best is determined by type of tear, age and activity level of the animal.

The TPLO is much better for big dogs greater than 50 lbs, for young, active dogs, and for hunting dogs. The extracapsular repair is best for small dogs less than 30 lbs, , for older, more sedentary dogs, and for cats. 

About 50% of dogs who tear an ACL will tear the ACL on the other leg, which often requires another surgery on that leg. The recovery time for both surgeries is about 8-10 weeks and requires specific post-surgical care. These two procedures are not the same and are not equivalent. 

Dr. Ricci performs the extracapsular technique at our clinic. This involves checking the joint and removing the torn ACL and meniscus if indicated. Then a suture is placed around the joint using high strength nylon suture and crimp clamps. Veterinary surgeons from Twin Cities Veterinary Surgery do all the TPLO procedures and some of the extracapsular repairs performed at the Belle Plaine Animal Hospital.