BACKGROUND: Cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) insufficiency is a degenerative condition that is a common cause of pelvic limb lameness and osteoarthritis in dogs. Surgical therapies developed to treat dogs with naturally occurring CrCL insufficiency aim to address the resultant instability, but the in-vivo alterations in stifle kinematics associated with CrCL insufficiency have not been accurately defined. The objective of this study was to quantify the 3-dimensional femorotibial joint kinematics of dogs with naturally occurring cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL) insufficiency during ambulation. Eighteen client-owned dogs (20-40 kg) with natural unilateral complete CrCL rupture were included. Computed tomographic scans were used to create digital 3-dimensional models of the femur and tibia bilaterally for each dog. Lateral fluoroscopic images were obtained during treadmill walking and 3 complete gait cycles were analyzed. Stifle flexion/extension angle, craniocaudal translation, and internal/external rotation were calculated throughout the gait cycle using a previously described 3D-to-2D image registration process. Results were compared between the pre-operative CrCL-deficient and 6-month post-operative contralateral stifles (control).
RESULTS: CrCL-deficient stifles were maintained in greater flexion throughout the gait cycle. Cranial tibial subluxation was evident in CrCL-deficient stifles at all time points throughout the gait cycle [9.7 mm at mid-stance (P < 0.0001); 2.1 mm at mid-swing (P < 0.0017)], and the magnitude of cranial tibial subluxation was greater at mid-stance phase than at mid-swing phase (P < 0.0001). Greater internal tibial rotation was present in CrCL-deficient stifles during stance phase (P < 0.0022) but no difference in axial rotation was evident during swing phase.
CONCLUSIONS: Naturally occurring CrCL rupture causes profound craniocaudal translational and axial rotational instability, which is most pronounced during the stance phase of gait. Surgical stabilization techniques should aim to resolve both craniocaudal subluxation and axial rotational instability.