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By Lisa Rummler

September 2010- Cats sometimes find themselves in precarious situations, such as climbing a tree and not being able to get down.

But a British cat named Oscar found himself in far more dire straits last October, when he lost his back paws in an accident involving a combine harvester on a farm.

Oscar's owners, Kate and Mike Nolan, took him to their local veterinarian, who referred them to a neuro-orthopedic surgeon near London.

Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick worked with biomedical engineering experts at University College Londonto design two metal prosthetic implants for Oscar.

The prostheses are called ITAPs, and they are made of titanium, vanadium and aluminum. Fitzpatrick says the ones made for Oscar are exactly the same as those for humans, only miniaturized.

"The ITAP technology has been used to create a prosthesis for a woman who lost her arm in the July 2005 London bombings," according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Unprecedented
Oscar's surgery last November was the first of its kind--never before had an animal received ITAP implants. An important factor for doctors was to ensure the prostheses allowed Oscar to move as naturally as possible.

"[Fitzpatrick] and biomedical engineers designed the artificial paws so that they would be fused to the bone and skin," according to an Associated Pressarticle. "The veterinarians then inserted the peg-like implants by drilling them into Oscar's ankle bones in his rear legs. The metal implants are attached to the bone where Oscar lost his paws and were coated with a substance that helps bone cells grow directly over them."

After the surgery, Oscar's skin grew over the end of the implant. This formed a natural seal, which will help prevent infection, according to the article.

Baby steps
Oscar eventually underwent rehabilitation and learned how to walk with his artificial paws. He was back on his feet in less than four months.

"This is a pretty lucky cat," Dr. Mark Johnston, a veterinarian and spokesman for the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, said in an article. "Giving a cat artificial limbs is a very novel solution."

Although prosthetic paws are unlikely to become common--Oscar's implants cost nearly $3,000, not including the cost of the actual operation--Oscar's owners say they hope this use of ITAP technology will translate into benefits for humans.

"We were aware that this sort of procedure is cutting-edge and also has an impact on human medicine, so knowledge about the way that Oscar's been treated can be carried over to human treatment going forward," Mike Nolan said in an article. FFJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

  • University College London
    London
    phone: +44 (0)20 7679 2000
    www.ucl.ac.uk

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