The First Feline Total Knee Transplant Goes Smoothly

2012 will be a remarkable year for veterinary medicine. The state of North Carolina is determined to make its mark this year. Earlier in January an N.C. horse was diagnosed with EHV-1, the first case of the disease to be seen in the eastern state. The horse was quarantined at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine until recovery. NCSU CVM decided to follow up this landmark with a more positive one however, by performing a groundbreaking surgery.

The Story of Cyrano

Cyrano the cat is a 10-year-old orange and white tabby from Upperville, Va., who had a bum leg. He is now the first cat in the U.S. to receive a total knee replacement.

Cyrano is no stranger to hospitals. In 2010 he underwent treatment for bone cancer in his leg at Colorado State University. Although he is currently in remission the affected leg was badly damaged. His owner, Sandy Lerner, noticed the impairment of the leg but didn’t want to have to amputate it; their quest for an alternative treatment led them to orthopedist Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little, and engineer Dr. Ola Harrysson at NCSU.

A Feline Knee Replacement

Dr. Marcellin-Little and Dr. Harrysson have performed several implant surgeries and perfect their implants with each surgery. The doctors decided to attempt a feline knee replacement on Cyrano. Dog knee replacements are common; cat knee replacements offer more challenges. Where dogs move very similarly to humans, cat movements are much different. The size of a cat implant and its ability to move naturally pose the biggest issues.

The NCSU colleges of engineering and veterinary medicine joined together to design the knee with hopes of ultimately achieving osseointegration. Osseointegration is when a prosthetic, such as this artificial knee, fuses with the surrounding bones in a way that creates a more natural ability to move.

The Surgery

The announcement that the surgery would be attempted was made on the NCSU CVM Twitter feed January 24th with a link to the official news release.

The surgery was Jan. 26 and took 5 hours and 45 minutes to complete. Cyrano was fitted with a completely custom knee. Allen G. Breed of the Associated Press tweeted photos during the operation of Cyrano being anesthetized, shaved, and the final result of the labor. The last photo is grainy but you can make out a leg on the screen above a very pleased looking veterinarian.

Owner Sandra Lerner will be shelling out around $20,000 for her beloved pet’s surgery. Money, she says, is being well spent.


This surgery will change the way we see orthotic transplants for both animals and humans. The research and techniques applied in the case of Cyrano easily translate to human medicine. Cyrano’s progress will be followed closely by NCSU and his successes and failures will be cause for adaptations to future implants.

Cyrano is currently healing well and at home with his family.

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