While checking my blog traffic sources, I found that I had a visitor searching for information on extracapsular repair gone wrong in a dog. My heart goes out to both the owner and the dog.
We too had a scare recently, when Jasmine, after she recovered from bilateral ACL repair, suddenly started limping on her left leg again. Fortunately it turned out to be a muscle injury, unrelated to the knee. That was a great relief.
If lameness occurs after the recovery period, I believe the first thing to do is to confirm whether the repair truly failed, or whether you're dealing with a different injury, such as muscle, tendon or meniscal injury.
When can extracapsular repair fail?
Fortunately, the chance of the joint failing after full recovery is rather low.
However, any of the ACL surgeries whether it's the TPLO, TTA or extracapsular repair can fail during the recovery time quite easily. That is why a strict post-operative care is important. If the joint is subjected to too much stress too early, things fall apart. One unfortunate jump of the couch can be all that is needed.
One of the reasons we opted for the extracapsular repair was, that the worst case scenario seemed to be starting from square one, should something go wrong. It is the least invasive option from the three.
It is believed, that the odds of failure are high in large breed dogs, simply because the stress on the repaired joint is too great. Jasmine is a proof to the contrary. Our surgeon uses an extra suture to stabilize the joint for larger dogs, and has very good results with that. Once recovered, the joint is kept stable by scar tissue and the suture is no longer needed.
What if it does fail?
Unless the reason for the failure was an accident that is not likely to happen again, you might want to consider one of the other surgeries, TPLO or TTA. The recovery time after TPLO and TTA is a bit shorter and not as strict. Keep in mind that every surgery requires a diligent rehabilitation though and things can go wrong with either of the ACL repairs.