Implant Failure Can Spell Trouble in Humans and our Pets

It’s a double dose of trouble for fluffy little Marzipan.  The 3 year old Pomeranian already underwent neck surgery as a pup.  Now, Southeast Veterinary Specialists’ Dr. Rose Lemarie says her symptoms are back.  “What Marzipan has is something called an atlantoaxial subluxation, which is a defect in the way the first two cervical vertebrae fit together.”

As a result, Marzipan can no longer walk or use the right side of her body.  When this first happened two years ago, she was teeny tiny during the surgery.  She was too small to use screws, so her veterinarian had to use pins instead.  Dr. Lemarie says, the fact that the pins failed wasn’t necessarily a concern.  “Implant failure is not that uncommon of a problem.  Implants are just there to hold whatever it is you’re trying to fix in place while the body is healing.  The goal is for the body to heal beneath the implants and after that, the implants aren’t important anymore.”

However, Marzipan’s body did not heal correctly.  Now, years later, doctors are faced with a tricky diagnosis.  Because of the metal in her neck, they can’t do an MRI, and the injury itself prevents a spinal tap.  Dr. Lemarie relies on visual examination and digital x-rays instead.  And they don’t look good.  “This is pretty abnormal, but when it breaks open and turns into this with just a little bit of gentle flexion, that’s crazy abnormal.”

Dr. Lemarie and her team will carefully perform a second surgery on the same joint.  They’ll have to remove the old pins and because Marzipan’s a little bigger, they can now use screws instead.  Dr. Lemarie hopes that this time it’ll be a permanent fix.