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The Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital, part of the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, performed a partial knee replacement surgery on a cat in a first for the 100-year-old faculty and the country.
The surgery was performed by specialist veterinary surgeon Dr Elge Bester and Dr Adriaan Kitshoff, who used a custom-made artificial groove for the kneecap to glide in, saving the cat from having its right leg amputated.
Their patient, Theophylline, a domestic shorthaired cat, was rescued from a parking lot drain as a kitten and quickly warmed the hearts of her rescuers.
Theophylline is the name of a bronchodilator drug used to relieve wheezing, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath related to diseases such as asthma, for instance.
However, when Theophylline was six months old, during the Covid-19 lockdown, she fell from the window of a second-storey building.
“This resulted in a very severe and complicated fracture of her right femur, involving the knee joint.
“This fracture carried a poor prognosis for return to full function and likely meant Theophylline would need to rely on only three legs going forward,” said Kitshoff.
Theophylline. Picture: Supplied.
This would have affected the cat’s quality of life as they use their hind legs to propel themselves when jumping.
According to Bester: “Theophylline’s amazing owners were willing to try everything and were extremely committed to getting her back on all four feet.
“They wanted, most of all, to allow her to be a normal active kitten and to be able to continue going on missions and play with her big brother, Felix.”
This started a three-month journey for Theophylline to get back on all four of her limbs with confidence and without pain. She underwent multiple surgeries to try and reconstruct her femur and knee joint.
The first included the insertion of numerous pins at various angles to ensure the alignment and length of the femur were salvaged.
The doctor said the process was ongoing and they would continue to monitor Theophylline for a minimum of six months to ensure no problems develop.
Bester said the polyethylene material used had been used in medical implants before and for hip replacements. The patella groove is considered a low-friction area and will hopefully last for the rest of her life.
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