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SUMMARY

Objective

To determine effect of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) on rate and degree of return to function of the limb and development of degenerative joint disease (DJD) after surgical creation and subsequent stabilization of the cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL)-deficient stifle.

Animals

12 clinically normal adult large (19.5 to 31.5 kg) dogs.

Procedure

Dogs were anesthetized, and the right CrCL was severed via arthrotomy, destabilizing the stifle. After 3 weeks, the stifle was surgically stabilized. Three weeks later, 6 dogs were subjected to an EMS treatment protocol for the thigh muscles. At 5, 9, 13, and 19 weeks after stifle destabilization, treated (n = 6) and control (n = 6) dogs were evaluated for return of stifle function. Gross and histologic evaluations of the stifles were performed at 19 weeks after stifle destabilization.

Results

Treated dogs had significantly (P = 0.001) better lameness score than did control dogs. There was less palpable crepitation of the stifle in treated dogs (P = 0.06); treated dogs also had significantly (P = 0.01) fewer radiographic signs of bone changes. Thigh circumference was significantly (P = 0.02) larger in treated dogs.There was less gross cartilage damage (P = 0.07) in the EMS-treated dogs, but more medial meniscal damage (P = 0.058, cranial pole; P = 0.051, caudal pole).

Conclusions

Improved lameness scores, larger thigh circumference, and decreased radiographically apparent bony changes observed for the treated group of dogs support the hypothesis that dogs treated by EMS after surgical stabilization of the CrCL-deficient stifle had improved limb function, with less DJD, than did dogs treated with the currently accepted clinical protocol of cage rest and slow return to normal activity. However, results of force plate evaluation did not support the hypothesis. Increased meniscal damage in dogs treated by EMS may be cause for concern. (Am J Vet Res 1997;58:1473–1478)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research