Early Detection of ACL Opens Door to Prevention Possibilities

Photo of DGY2000 being used on a Walker hound named Betty at the University of Wisconsin. © University of Wisconsin.

Veterinary professionals who consider anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) disruption a leading canine orthopedic disease may be intrigued by a new device designed to detect partial disruption of the ligaments before rupture occurs. 

 “I was looking for new ways to treat this very complex, frustrating disease,” said Mandi Lopez, DVM, PhD, DACVS, who created a machine - DGY2000 – with veterinary surgeon Mark Markel and instrument specialist William Hagquist that would allow her to follow the course of the disease and perhaps ultimately prevent it. The device, which consists of a small table with moveable and stable components, is called DGY2000, a shortened version of the word “doggie” and the year the prototype was built. It will be featured in the June/July issue of the Journal of Orthopaedic Research and a patent is pending. It is the only machine of its kind, said Lopez, who hopes that it will ultimately be used by general practitioners and referral centers to detect and quantify joint laxity changes related to partial or complete ACL disruption.

DGY2000 is a non-invasive method to evaluate integrity. Dogs are anesthetized and laid on one side with the bad leg up. The short table is positioned between the dog’s rear legs, the femur and tibia are strapped to the top and bottom sides of the table, and a set amount of pressure is applied to the tibia, first from the front and then from the back. Radiographs are taken before and during force application and tibial translation is quantified, said Lopez.

Practitioners typically determine joint laxity by manual joint manipulating. “It’s difficult to quantify small changes in joint laxity by hand,” Lopez said. “The machine is a much more sensitive gauge.” Partial ACL disruption is sometimes difficult to diagnose, Lopez said, partly because increases in joint laxity may be very slight prior to complete rupture. Once changes in the joint are detected, surgical procedures to stabilize the joint and reduce stress on the ligament may allow it to heal, Lopez said.

Research shows that the ligament has some healing capacity, but no single procedure can replace the native ACL function after rupture. There are a number of ongoing studies across the country investigating causative factors and ways to inhibit or prevent canine ACL disease, Lopez said.

“We can potentially improve a dog’s quality of life by diagnosing cruciate problems early and preventing rupture,” said Lopez, who is planning a multi-institutional prospective clinical study in 2004 at the University of Wisconsin and Louisiana State University veterinary schools of medicine.

NEWStat Advancements & research News