A cat whose leg was rendered unusable by cancer last year has just received one of the first total knee replacements for felines, the Huffington Post reports. Due to his weight, the damaged leg could not be amputated. But though commonplace for dogs, bone replacement in cats is in its infancy. The challenge is in the felines’ smaller size, including their more delicate bone structure.
The surgery was performed at the veterinary college of North Caroline State University, in Raleigh. Engineer and professor Ola Harrysson described the operation as “[part of a] pure research project, in a way,” since a joint of this kind for a cat has never been done before.
The surgeon, Denis Marcellin-Little, practiced the operation four times on models before the real thing. Although knee replacement surgery was performed on a cat in Britain in 2009, the complex joint used in the NCSU operation is much more complex, and more closely matches the types used in humans, both in its functionality, materials used and precise matching with the living bone.
The joint was fabricated out of plastic and a cobalt chromium alloy, using a laser to harden the metal powder, a process which allows for more exact shaping than standard machining. The size and shape of the implant is supposed to match up perfectly with the actual bones with which it is fused.
The cat, whose name is Cyrano, survived the operation well. Since the surgery pioneered new, experimental techniques, and is considered research, providing an exact accounting of the cost was difficult for the university. Much of the cost was also defrayed by donated materials. But the owners are expected to pay about $20, 000.
Sandra Lermer, one of Cyrano’s owners, said “He’s my child. And if it were your child, would you begrudge the money? I have a personal philosophy that people are, at best, equal with the other inhabitants of the planet. And I’m very, very grateful that I have the money and (am) able to do it.”
Lermer happens to be one of the founders of the large electronics company, Cisco Systems. She is indeed fortunate that money didn’t need to factor in the family’s decision. Many pet owners, even with insurance, don’t always have the option of dealing with major health problems. Indeed, in the United States, many poor, uninsured people have in the past been unable to afford their own medical care.
Cyrano is supposed to take it easy for three months, but should be able to get back to being a cat after that. He is currently 10 years old and his cancer has remained in remission for a year so far. With luck, his owners will get at least eight more years of good health with their furry friend.
Photo credit: Alvesgaspar