Saturday, January 24, 2009


Welcome to Heisman's surgery blog!  Heisman is a 2 year old female yellow labrador retriever who was diagnosed with a torn cruciate ligament in December of 2008.  After her crazy mother got a second opinion and did an insane amount of research, we have decided to move forward with the surgery recommended by both veterinarians - TPLO, or Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy.  I will not even attempt to describe what all the surgery entails, but you can read up on all of the details by clicking here.  Involved in the surgery is making an cut through her lower leg bone and inserting a plate with 6 screws that will be there for the rest of her life. 

The TPLO was not the only surgical solution for Heisman, but I am told (promised) that it is the one offering the most normal, long term use of her leg for the rest of her life.  Also discussed was an extracapsular repair, which is less invasive but not recommended for an 80 pound dog, and a TTA, or Tibial Tuberosity Advancement.  Never did I think I would know so much about the anatomy of a dog's leg, but I have been determined to arm myself with a vast amount of information so that I can be assured when dropping Heisman off for surgery that I have made the best decision possible for her.

Heisman's initial set of x-rays are below - confirming no hip dysplasia (YAY) as well as no other fractures to her leg.  As in humans, you cannot see the ligament tear in the x-ray.  That must be diagnosed be the doctor checking for unnecessary and unnatural mobility in the knee joint, which is certainly present in Heisman.

The next step after choosing the right procedure for Heisman's leg was choosing the correct surgeon.  The doctor who gave us the first opinion suggested that we go to a vet in Riverdale, GA who he described as "Captain Kangaroo on crack."  If you completely factor out the Captain Kangaroo comment, the fact that this vet is located in Riverdale alone was enough to place some major doubts in my mind, despite the fact that I am proud to be Little Miss Riverdale 1985 (thanks, Mom).  The doubts were compounded by the fact that the vet would not refer me to any other surgery center regardless of how much research I did. It sounded like a "kickback" situation to me.  I knew I wanted to get a second opinion anyway, so we got through the Christmas holiday - which lucky for Heisman came with a LOT of wrapping paper to shred - and headed up to Woodstock, GA for a second opinion.  The vet that we saw in Woodstock recommended that we head to Athens to the University of Georgia vet school.  That was a VERY hard sell seeing as Heisman's parents are both Georgia Tech graduates, but we decided that if it was the best thing for Heisman, we would go for it.  When I called to schedule the appointment, I was told by a (very lazy) scheduler that I could not choose my surgeon, know anything about the many orthopedic surgeons in advance, or come in for a consultation without scheduling surgery.  That just didn't feel right.  They also told us that Heisman would stay in Athens for 5 nights following the surgery, which didn't bother me, but was quite different from the 1 night that I had read about in my research.  I stewed over all of this information for a night and, of course, did even more research.  I read many MIXED reviews (some AMAZING, some heart wrenchingly awful) about UGA and also read about the many preparations that my husband and I would need to make for Heisman's recovery.  All of our wood floors need to be covered in carpet for Heisman to walk on them, we need a sling to help support the weight on her back legs for the first week, we need ramps on any steps she comes in contact with, etc.  So, I turn into Mom-zilla and call UGA back the next morning.  I speak to the same delightful ray of sunshine that I had spoken with the day before who said she TOLD me that I would be able to talk to the surgeon WHEN I DROP THE DOG OFF and if I have any questions before that to call my vet, have my vet call them and get answers, then call my vet back.  That was it.  Back to what I've always known: TO HELL WITH GEORGIA.  I quite politely informed this individual that I would not drop my dog off within a 15 mile radius of her and called our local vet for advice.  To my delight, she recommended the surgery center that I was leaning towards after all of my research (you would not believe the hours logged on the internet).  So, we now have a surgeon - Dr. Kenneth Greenwood of Northlake Veterinary Specialists.

That's our (already long) story in a nutshell.  Stay tuned to the blog for developments on Heisman's surgery and recovery!