Unfortunately, complications can occur with any surgical procedure. The complication rate for TPLO surgery is low, but potential complications include:
Any surgery carries a small risk of infection. Orthopaedic surgery carries a slightly higher risk because bacteria can stick to the metal implants, which makes it difficult for the immune system to reach them. To reduce this risk, all dogs receive antibiotics during surgery. If your dog licks their wound after surgery, they can introduce infection, which is why most dogs will need to wear a buster collar until the surgical wound has healed.
In a small number of dogs, the screws that hold the bone in its new position can become loose over time. If this happens, excessive movement of the bone segments against one another can delay healing and, in the worst-case scenario, the screws or plate can break and require replacement. The risk of this happening increases substantially if exercise is not sufficiently restricted following surgery.
Delayed healing of the bone
The bone needs to heal in order to become strong enough to support your dog’s normal activity. All dogs heal at slightly different rates and often patience is required. Insufficient exercise restriction after surgery, as well as some underlying health conditions, can predispose a dog to slow healing.
Fracture of the tibial tuberosity
The movement of the semi-circular segment of bone during a TPLO alters the shape of the tibia and leaves the insertion site of the patellar tendon (known as the tibial tuberosity) slightly weakened. Excessive forces through the joint in the early post-operative period can result in fracture of this bone which would require surgical repair.
Patellar Tendon Damage/Inflammation
The circular cut in the tibia is made very close to the point at which the tendon that attaches to the kneecap (patellar tendon) inserts onto the bone. While every effort is made to protect it, damage to the tendon is possible during the cutting of the bone. The tendon can also become inflamed in the months following surgery due to alteration in the forces acting across the joint.
Subsequent meniscal injury
In up to 7% of cases, the menisci appear normal at the time of surgery but are later damaged due to continued, mild degrees of joint instability. Lameness may persist longer than expected post-surgery, or dogs may seemingly recover before suddenly becoming lame on the leg once more. If this occurs, repeat surgery will be required to inspect the meniscus for damage and cut away any torn portions.