Pets

Titanium-alloy legs keep disabled cat mobile

Vincent with Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh, who surgically implanted the titanium-alloy prostheses
Vincent with Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh, who surgically implanted the titanium-alloy prostheses
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A 3D rendering of Vincent's hind legs, spine, hips and tail
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A 3D rendering of Vincent's hind legs, spine, hips and tail
An x-ray showing how Vincent's back legs looked before the prostheses were implanted
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An x-ray showing how Vincent's back legs looked before the prostheses were implanted
An x-ray show a close up of how the prostheses were inserted into Vincent's femur
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An x-ray show a close up of how the prostheses were inserted into Vincent's femur
An x-ray showing the placement of the prosthetic legs
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An x-ray showing the placement of the prosthetic legs
Vincent with Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh, who surgically implanted the titanium-alloy prostheses
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Vincent with Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh, who surgically implanted the titanium-alloy prostheses
Vincent's back end soon after surgery
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Vincent's back end soon after surgery
One of the titanium-alloy prostheses, before being surgically implanted in Vincent
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One of the titanium-alloy prostheses, before being surgically implanted in Vincent
Vincent with his titanium-alloy hind legs
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Vincent with his titanium-alloy hind legs

When Vincent was found abandoned as a kitten, he had no hind legs below what would be considered his shinbones. But thanks to the kindness of strangers, some titanium implants and the skills of a veterinary orthopedic surgeon, Vincent can now walk on all fours ... albeit not with the grace of a normal feline.

Vincent was found in a campground and eventually ended up in an animal shelter in Iowa. Cindy Jones, a volunteer at the shelter, brought him to Iowa State University's Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center, where Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh initially tried physical therapy to help the cat learn to cope without the use of his back legs. Realizing that wasn't working, she decided that surgically implanting prosthetic legs was the next-best option.

Only a couple of dozen such surgeries have been done on animals to date, so Dr. Bergh and her team had little information to go by regarding what to expect in rehab. The surgery itself involved implanting a titanium alloy prosthetic into the femur bone of each leg, allowing the skin to grow around it.

The implants are designed to allow Vincent's bone to grow onto the titanium shafts to support his weight. The shaft is also exposed to the environment, however, which means Vincent is at constant risk of infection. Both cat and owner have learned to deal with this challenge, partially through twice-daily applications of an antibiotic spray.

Vincent's back end soon after surgery
Vincent's back end soon after surgery

Vincent's first surgery was in 2014 and a second was in February of this year, with subsequent procedures gradually lengthening his prosthetic legs. Dr. Bergh said that the latter simply involves sliding a longer attachment onto the implanted post, so no anesthesia is necessary. Starting with a short leg and transitioning to a longer one has allowed Vincent to build muscle and bone strength, in order to tolerate the extra forces that come with having the longer limbs.

All surgeries and treatments were done at ISU with the custom-designed titanium-alloy prostheses donated by BioMedtrix, a company that specializes in hip and joint replacement products for a variety of animals. The costs of the surgery and treatment have been paid for by Vincent's owners, the Jones family.

No one is sure how Vincent's back legs ended up the way they were, but Dr. Bergh said his case may help make implants a more practical solution in the future for animals in similar situations.

Vincent with his titanium-alloy hind legs
Vincent with his titanium-alloy hind legs

Late last year, a veterinarian caring for a dog with deformed front legs and no paws used 3D printing to create strap-on prosthetics that allowed the animal to be able to run and walk more normally.

For the time being, Vincent remains with the Jones family and is evidently doing his best to live the life of a normal cat – titanium legs and all.

Watch the video below to see Vincent in action.

Source: Iowa State University

Meet the cat ISU vets outfitted with very rare prosthetic legs

4 comments
mhpr262
Maybe it would have been kinder to just strap a little two wheeled cart to his hindquarters .... that cat looks pitiful on those two grotesque stilts.
Peter Kelly
I don't deny the ingenuity, or the technical ability, of the vets in this case, but I have to question the wisdom. Even putting aside moral questions of self-awareness and quality of life, in respect of a cat, I think it unacceptable to be using antibiotics in this way, especially in light of recent developments and the known dangers of over-use. This is definitely a case of bragging rights and smug, moral superiority gone mad.
Catweazle
Nice one Iowa State University. Useful research into implantation that has also as a useful side effect enhanced the life of a damaged cat. A shame there are joyless short-sighted individuals in the world who seem unable to appreciate it.
rocketride
A beautiful cat who has a shot at something closer to a normal life. Both thumbs up.