Complications from luxating patella surgery

Updated February 12, 2018

Luxating patella is a canine disorder involving kneecap dislocation due to a congenital abnormality. Depending on the severity, the condition can be painful and cause lameness. Veterinarians recommend surgery for some cases if the condition is progressing and leading to debilitating arthritis. Surgery has approximately a 90 per cent success rate, according to Vet Surgery Central, with success defined as the return of good limb function. Complications are unlikely because the surgery is relatively straightforward.

Anaesthesia Reaction

Any surgery requiring general anaesthesia may result in reactions to the anaesthesia that can be life-threatening. These occurrences are rare, as explained by Vet Surgery Central.


Infection of the surgical site can occur. Although infection is uncommon, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics after surgery as a preventive measure. If infection does occur, it may require another operation.

Pin Problems

Migration of the pin placed during surgery may require another operation to remove the pin. Additionally, a seroma, a pocket of fluid similar to an abscess, can form over a pin. The veterinarian may need to drain the seroma or remove it surgically.

Repair Breakdown

Exercise should be minimised for 2 months after surgery, with no running or jumping allowed, as noted by Veterinary Surgical Services. Breakdown of the patella repair can occur otherwise, and the dog will need another operation.

Unsuccessful Surgery

Up to 10 per cent of dogs experience continuing discomfort or pain after luxating patella surgery, according to Veterinary Surgical Services. Additionally, sometimes fixing the luxating patella can cause pressure or other problems in bones and joints, as noted by This website cites a 1987 study reported in "Small Animal Surgery" that found about 8 per cent of luxating patella operations did not have completely successful outcomes. If your dog avoids using the affected leg or shows other signs of discomfort, your veterinarian can prescribe pain medication.

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Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.