Is My Dog a Candidate for Tightrope Surgery?

Tightrope CCL Surgery, Canine Cruciate Ligament

The newest surgical technique to repair torn cranial cruciate ligaments in dogs is the tightrope procedure.  Tightrope CCL is an extracapsular technique which uses lateral suture stabilization in conjunction with a virtually indestructible material called FiberTape for knee joint stabilization.  The Fiber Tape is placed in the dog’s knee through a few small incisions, mostly done arthroscopically, which create tunnels through the bone, and is considered to be one of the least invasive surgical approaches to canine cruciate injury repair. 

Unfortunately, not every dog is a good candidate for the tightrope procedure.  Below you will find some general criteria that excludes certain dogs from tightrope surgery.  Remember – This list is in no way conclusive or exhaustive, your veterinarian will take into consideration many factors including your dog’s age, weight, health history, onset of injury, and physical conformation when making a treatment recommendation for your pet.

Who is not a Candidate for Tightrope CCL Repair?

1)  Dogs weighing less than 30-40 pounds.

2)  Dogs (and people) that cannot follow a physical rehabilitation protocol after surgery.

3)  Canines with limb deformities of any kind.

4)  Dogs with a steep tibial plateau, usually an angle of more than 30 degrees.

17 thoughts on “Is My Dog a Candidate for Tightrope Surgery?

  1. Our 2 1/2 yr. old, 60 lb. mixed breed (we think bisenji/pit bull) dog had the TPLO surgery just over a year ago. He recently showed signs of injury to his other knee. His vet confirmed he has a luxating patella, as she just gently squeezed the muscle above his knee and we watched as his kneecap slid out of place. Rest w/anti-inflammatories and sedation with strict leash-walk limitations was set in place for a week to reduce swelling and see if there is any improvement. He has somehow injured it even more, perhaps when he jumped up in his crate at a knock at the door, and the leg looks like it’s turned out and is now making a clicking noise. The knee he had the TPLO on was completely blown out and I am thinking this is what has happened with the other knee. We are opposed to having the TPLO surgery again and are looking into alternative options. Is the leg he had the TPLO on strong enough to endure bearing the weight if he had the Tightrope procedure done on the other? Would he even be a candidate for the Tightrope procedure based on his previous surgery? Would conservative management be effective enough in this case? He is so young and such a great dog. We get compliments on him all of the time and our family loves him very much. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

    1. I have a Staffordshire Terrier (mix- adopted) that weighs about 45lbs. Her back legs were a mess, I’m guessing that may be why someone dumped her! We are crazy about our joyful girl so we were in it for the long haul. Over a year and a half she had both back knees done, TTA and one hip. She was 4 years old. We were very careful with her recovery but as long as she got lots of attention, she didn’t mind the quiet life! She is now back to her crazy, joyful, playful self. I was told ‘no restrictions’ about 4 months after her last surgery but I’m still watchful that our much larger pup doesn’t play too rough. It was totally worth it! My Sprite seems totally pain-free.

  2. Our 12 yr. old lab, miniature collie mix, Keli, (42 lbs) just blew out her knee playing frisbee. She’s always been a pretty active, fit dog. She still walked/ran about 2 miles several times a week with me. When I look at the repairs, most of the dogs are so much younger. Is she too old to expect a good outcome from surgical repair? Thanks for any advice.

  3. Our 4 yr. old dal/boxer female, 60 lb. had tightrope surgery at New Baltimore vet hospital in Warrenton, Va. a few days before T-day. The first 3 days she cried around the clock as we took turns sitting up with her all night. I can’t say I was happy with the pain management side of this surgery. If this was a hospital for humans they would have gotten an F for pain management. Our dog came home late in the day of the surgery instead of staying overnight due to the head tech stating to us when we brought her in the am that there was no one in the hospital from 6 pm until 8 am the next morning. We were horrified at this and decided it would be best to come home where we could supervise her. It turns out we received a call at 10:45 pm that night from the vet stating he was at the hospital checking in on his surgical patients and wanted to know how she was. Not sure if this was an attempt at redemtion or not. We were treated very unprofessionally by the support staff on both the drop off and pick up. They were hostile and rude when checking in and out. When returning for the check up the next day with our dog the staff berated us for being late and we were told we had to wait at least an hour in our car as they had no where to lay her down. We showed up 15 minutes prior to the time the vet told us to arrive the night before when we spoke. I stated this to the nurse who came out to our car to examine her. We notifed both the office manager and the vet of this treatment and we never received any acknowledgement or explanation. I have had pets for 25 years and have never received such treatment by office staff. Great vet but the support staff is a nightmare. Our plans to have him treat our pets ongoing were canceled after this experience. Additionally, we come to found out during our 5 visits post and pre op that other clients were treated this way as well. We were set on tightrope as an alternative to typical old style cruciate repairs as it was less invasive and less expensive however this was the only vet in our vicinity which we could find. We live in Northern VA. so Warrenton was an hour drive. We are at the 2 month mark post op and she is doing well. No cutting sports type play allowed. She could not stomach either of the 2 pain meds so she still holds the leg up after walks. It is hard at times to keep her from running around with her balls but come spring we will start slowly with exercise. Although her other knee has a rupture we have decided to not have the repair done as a result of the lack of successful pain management and our other negative experiences witht he vets’ office , we feel it would be too cruel. I am surprised there is not a regulation requiring surgical facilties to provide a trained tech monitoring post op patients after hours. make sure you ask-we did not as we assumed they would have someone there at night.

    1. Check out VOSM in Annapolis Jxn. It is less than an hour from DC. They do tightrope/TPLO/TTA, keep the dog the 1st night, and do a good job with acute pain management.

    2. Is a damn shame I went through the same thing in AZ at many different Vets” all they want is are money and pull are heart strings
      to try to get it and not even try to be nice to us little alone are dogs
      if anyone knows a Vet in Northern AZ the still loves animals I think that’s why you become a Vet
      Thank’s and good luck with your puppy dogger

      1. Hi Joy :}

        I am also in AZ in the Phoenix area. I am finding the same thing that you are stating “Vets for themselves and what surgery will put more into their pocket”!! Were you able to find a specialist to do the Tightrope Surgery?

    3. My gosh, what a nightmare, my dog’s pain was managed well, sent home with fentanyl patch, anitinflammatories, and pain killer meds. He did whimper maybe twice the first night. All these stories of dogs crying all night is horrendous. I am so sorry, I hope your dog is still recovering well.

  4. My 41-pound chocolate Lab had the traditional “old style” surgery for a ruptured cruciate ligament. The procedure required only a small incision. She was hospitalized for two days. No painkillers were required, post-op, and she began to put weight on her leg, almost immediately.
    Full recovery took several weeks, We followed the orthopedic surgeon’s instructions to the letter and now, four months later, my dog is fully recovered. She runs at top speed and shows no symptoms of discomfort. I am fully satisfied with the results of this surgery.
    In my community,there are several veterinarians who perform this procedure. I chose a clinic with an orthopedic surgeon and feel the extra cost was well worthwhile.


    1. Hi Maggie
      Are you in the northern va area? My 11year old Boston ruptured her CCL and needs to have it repaired. 5 years ago she had TPLO on her other leg but it was extremely expensive and invasive. Considering her age and my current financial situation I would love to find a solution that is less expensive and less invasive. Any recommendations of vets would be greatly appreciated.

    2. what is the “old style” surgery? Tightrope???
      My dog tore her acl and we are trying to decide the best surgery. She is a pittadore and weighs about 85 pounds.

    1. Love your story and Skyler my 3 year old Siberian husky and me are in the same boat
      I’m sure she didn’t just teared it
      I hear her bones clicking together it breaking my heart I was wondering about this tightrope for CCL
      I have been down the other road with my other husky 10,000 dollars latter and it never helped her I’m still paying it off and she died last year at 10
      do really think it’s that bad and how much to you guys pay????
      Thank’s any input would be great
      Joy and Skyler

  5. The vet cost, surgery, no overnight was $4500. plus about $200. for meds. That cost will vary depending on location. This vet was in a rural area outside of Metro DC, about 1 hour so less expensive but also was hard to find a vet in our area who did the tightrope procedure.It has been 19 months and she has more stability in the knee but did not regain the ability run and jump.No more long hikes/walks-30 min. walk is tops since the arthritis has set into BOTH back legs now.
    Good luck with your fur baby!

  6. Ive got a very active 16 month old lab mix who just tore her ACL. Im trying to decide which procedure to use. She loves running and wrestling and weighs 65lbs. I live in the Chicago area. Can somebody suggest which procedure would be most successful?

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