Tubby tabby gets revolutionary new knee joint

Jan 27, 2012, 8:57 PM

AP National Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Because Cyrano weighs more than 20 pounds, amputating his cancer-weakened leg was out of the question. So the tubby tabby’s owners turned to doctors and engineers at North Carolina State University to get him back into mice-catching trim.

On Thursday, the 10-year-old cat from Upperville, Va., received what doctors believe is the first feline total knee replacement in the U.S.

“This is the most complex implant that NC State has made and really, in all honesty, that anyone has built for any situation that I know of,” said surgeon Denis Marcellin-Little, a French-born veterinarian.

Cyrano _ his full name is Mr. Cyrano L. Catte II _ underwent treatment last year at Colorado State University for cancer in his left hind leg. The disease is in remission, but the treatment left the leg nearly useless and extremely painful.

Marcellin-Little and NCSU engineer Ola Harrysson are pioneers in osseointegration, a process that fuses a prosthetic limb with living bone. In 2005, Marcellin-Little performed the world’s first surgery to fuse leg implants with a cat’s bone tissue, so Cyrano’s owners turned to him for help.

Britain’s Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick was credited with the world’s first total knee replacement in 2009 on a cat named Missy, whose leg was crushed by a car. But Marcellin-Little said Cyrano’s plastic and cobalt chromium alloy implant is more like those used in humans.

“It has a form of articulation that is unique _ that allows the implant to bend and rotate,” he said, demonstrating with a model during a news conference the day before the surgery. “The devil is in the details.”

Such implants have become commonplace in dogs. But a cat’s smaller anatomy has proved more difficult to work with, and Cyrano’s damaged bones posed an additional challenge, Marcellin-Little said.

Unlike other joints, which are machined, Cyrano’s knee _ in cats, it’s actually called a “stifle” _ was fabricated using a laser process that hardens metal powder to exactly replicate his bones. More than a dozen people worked on developing and testing the implant, each half of which is about 2 inches long.

Marcellin-Little practiced the procedure four times on plastic models before Thursday’s surgery.

The operation began around 10:30 a.m. Attendants did not wheel Cyrano to the intensive care unit until almost 5 p.m.

Marcellin-Little said the tabby’s girth and big bones were a plus. He said Cyrano should be up and around in about a week, though he won’t be climbing trees for a while yet.

“We would like him to take it easy for about three months after surgery,” the doctor said. “And then we will let him be himself.”

Because so much of the time and material were donated, university representatives could not give a total cost estimate.

“Part of this is a pure research project, in a way,” said Harrysson, an NCSU professor of industrial and systems engineering.

The bill to owners Sandra Lerner and Len Bosack will be around $20,000. Sitting in a waiting room after the surgery, a visibly exhausted Lerner _ who helped found electronics giant Cisco Systems _ said “Rat Boy” is worth every penny.

“He’s my child. And if it were your child, would you begrudge the money?” she said. “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.”

___

EDITOR’S NOTE _ Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org.

Follow him on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/(hash)!/AllenGBreed

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Virgin Orbit rocket launches 7 US defense satellites

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying seven U.S. Defense Department satellites was launched from a special Boeing 747 flying off the Southern California coast and streaked toward space Friday night. The modified jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and released the rocket over the […]
5 hours ago
Casper Byrd, right, of Bowling Green, sits with friends as they listen to various speakers share th...
Associated Press

Texas Supreme Court blocks order that resumed abortions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court blocked a lower court order late Friday night that said clinics could continue performing abortions, just days after some doctors had resumed seeing patients after the fall of Roe v. Wade. It was not immediately clear whether Texas clinics that had resumed seeing patients this week would […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Today in History: July 2, Amelia Earhart disappears

Today in History Today is Saturday, July 2, the 183rd day of 2022. There are 182 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On July 2, 1937, aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to make the first round-the-world flight along the equator. On this date: […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Baby’s father charged in slaying of stroller-pushing NYC mom

NEW YORK (AP) — The ex-boyfriend of a New York City woman shot dead Wednesday as she pushed their infant daughter in a stroller has been arrested and charged with killing her, police said Friday. Slain mother Azsia Johnson’s family identified suspect Isaac Argro as the baby’s father and said he routinely abused Johnson, beating […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Judge: Sheriff must post bail after anti-harassment order

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The sheriff of Pierce County, Washington, was ordered to post $100,000 bail while he awaits trial on false-reporting charges related to his controversial confrontation last year with a Black newspaper carrier. Judge Jeffrey Jahns on Friday imposed the bail — 10 times the amount requested by prosecutors — during a hearing […]
1 day ago
FILE - Lights illuminate a coal mine at twilight, Jan. 13, 2022, in Kemmerer, Wyo. With the nearby ...
Associated Press

Court leaves dwindling paths for Biden’s climate mission

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 500 days into his presidency, Joe Biden’s hope for saving the Earth from the most devastating effects of climate change may not quite be dead. But it’s not far from it. A Supreme Court ruling Thursday not only limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollution by power […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Tubby tabby gets revolutionary new knee joint