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Objective— To evaluate postoperative morbidity in dogs after experimental cranial cruciate ligament transection and immediate stifle stabilization using an arthroscopically assisted or open arthrotomy technique.

Study Design— Experimental, prospective study.

Animals— Thirteen mature, healthy dogs.

Methods— Dogs were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. Seven underwent open arthrotomy while 6 underwent arthroscopy of 1 stifle joint. Cranial cruciate ligaments were transected and debrided and all stifles were stabilized using 2 lateral extracapsular fabellar-tibial sutures. Minimally invasive suture placement was employed in the arthroscopy group. All animals were evaluated for 9 weeks using kinetic gait assessments, comfortable stifle range of motion measurements, thigh girth measurements, differential cell counts of synovial fluid, and subjective scores of behavior, limb use, and lameness.

Results— Significant differences in postoperative morbidity were observed during the 9-week postoperative period. Greater peak vertical force for 8 weeks (P=.015), vertical impulse for 6 weeks (P=.044), comfortable stifle range of motion for 9 weeks (P=.017), comfortable stifle flexion for 4 weeks (P=.005), and operative limb thigh circumference (P=.020) for 9 weeks were observed for the arthroscopy group. A trend towards a lower differential mean synovial polymorphonuclear cell count in the arthroscopy group was seen at 4 and 8 weeks postoperatively. No differences in subjective evaluation scores were noted.

Conclusions— In this study population, significant differences were seen between the arthroscopy and arthrotomy groups for peak vertical force, vertical impulse, comfortable stifle range of motion, comfortable stifle flexion, and thigh circumference data.

Clinical Relevance— The results of this study suggest that short-term postoperative morbidity may be reduced in dogs receiving arthroscopic joint surgery with a limited approach for stifle stabilization as compared with a traditional open arthrotomy technique.