Wood River Valley veterinarian Randy Acker and local mechanical and biomedical engineer Greg Van Der Meulen have teamed up to develop and surgically implant for the first time a replacement ankle in a dog.
“We have done two so far,” said Van Der Meulen, who is from the Wood River Valley and works for BioMedtrix, a New Jersey company and leader in joint replacement design, which patented and licenses his products.
Acker is a veterinarian and medical director at the Sun Valley Animal Center south of Ketchum, which specializes in canine orthopedics. He performed his first successful canine hip replacement surgery in 1991, on a German shepherd.
Acker and Van Der Meulen first worked together several years ago to design a new type of prosthetic canine elbow for Acker’s own yellow Labrador retriever, Tate.
“We work together on design concepts and their implementation. I engineer the device and Randy surgically implants them,” Van Der Meulen said.
Unlike most prostheses, which use stemmed cemented components, Van Der Meulen’s products are “resurfacing prosthetics,” which require less-invasive surgical techniques.
“The purpose of the TATE procedure is to mimic the fundamental motions of the elbow and eliminate the pain associated with end-stage osteoarthritis of the joint. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the joint articular surfaces accurately after these have been carefully removed,” states the BioMedtrix website.
Canine replacement BioMedtrix elbows are now a standard item. About 250 pets worldwide have received their canine elbow implants.
The new ankle transplants, designed by Van Der Meulen and implanted by Acker, are for now a custom-designed product.
He said the surgical ankle procedure, now in an experimental and developmental stage, will cost from $3,500 to $4,500.
An 8-year-old Labrador named Daisy is under observation until next spring to measure the success of the implant.
“It depends on the bone growing into it,” said Van Der Meulen.
Van Der Meulen said regular X-rays are taken to make sure the bone grafts properly around the implanted device.
“If everything is good at 12 months, it should last the life of the dog,” he said.
Tony Evans: email@example.com