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Labrador gets new elbow

Simon Baeley and Koff, after his operation

A FIVE year-old black labrador named Koff became the first dog in Britain to be given a replacement elbow last week.

Vets performed the delicate three-hour operation at the University of Liverpool's Small Animal Hospital under the supervision of Dr Mike Conzemius, a pioneer of this specialist canine surgery in the USA.

Simon Baeley took his pet, Koff, to the hospital after he was hit by a car last year and developed severe arthritis in the right elbow, leading to difficulty walking. Mr Baeley’s vet told him that Koff would ideally need the elbow joint replacing, explaining that this was a highly specialised orthopedic procedure.

Mr Baeley searched the Internet looking for an animal orthopedic expert and found Dr Mike Conzemius, but he was based in Iowa, USA.

Originally, Mr Baeley was planning to fly to America with Koff, but decided it was more convenient to bring the dog to Liverpool's Small Animal Hospital for the operation where facilities were perfect for the operation.

Dr Conzemius is the only surgeon in the world to be trained in this type of procedure, and arranged to fly to Liverpool in order to assist with the operation.

He flew to England and performed the procedure, and now Koff is on the road to recovery and set for many a long walk near his home in Dorset.

Speaking from Iowa State University - where he is associate professor of surgery in the department of veterinary clinical sciences - Dr Conzemius said last night: "It worked out very fortunately for the owners that I was able to fly to England to operate on their pet, as the vast majority travel here. This was my first visit to the UK and I spent just the one day in Liverpool.

"Total elbow replacement is the most challenging surgery that I do, and it went very well."
Koff's new elbow is made from cobalt, chrome and polyethylene, and was fitted without any hitches during the three-hour operation.

Prof John Innes, who led the Liverpool team, said: "It may seem strange to the public, but dogs have elbows on their front legs and knees on the back ones - just as in other mammals.

"We are grateful to Dr Conzemius for sharing his experience and expertise that will enable us to develop this technique. We, in turn, hope to share our knowledge with other vet schools and private referral practices in the UK."

Koff will have to rest for about eight weeks before gradually returning to full activity through rehabilitation, although he is making remarkable progress already and has achieved a new lease of life.

Mr Baeley said; "We were prepared to fly to the States to have Koff treated, but we were delighted when Dr Conzemius agreed to come here. I just can’t thank him enough for helping Koff to get better."

An x-ray of Koff's replacement elbow