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Muscle transplant helps dog walk again

Friday December 7th, 2012

By DogTime Staff

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Dr. Michael Pavletic of the Angell Animal Medical Center developed the surgical technique to help Bella. (Photo credit: MSPCA-Angell)

Back in May 2012, 6-year-old Border Collie Bella took a nasty spill off of a platform bed at her family’s Pawtucket, Mass., home, landing on and seriously injuring her leg.

The fall left Bella with a severe disability — unable to put any weight on her front right leg due to damage caused to the muscles and connective tissues, the leg curled up close to Bella’s body, giving the once agile Border Collie mobility issues.

Devastated for his dog, Bella’s owner Anthony Martinetti sought the advice of three local veterinarians, who, one after the next, told him that Bella’s lasting injuries were difficult and potentially impossible to treat. Frustrated, Martinetti turned to the veterinarians at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Jamaica Plain, specialists who were finally able to provide answers about Bella’s condition.

Angell Animal Medical Center veterinarian Dr. Michael Pavletic is a well-known expert on reconstructive surgeries in animals. He is probably best known for helping a cat named Edgar, reconstructing the cat’s face after it was torn off by a vehicle’s fan belt. Martinetti felt confident that if anyone could help his buddy Bella, it would be the esteemed Dr. Pavletic — and Martinetti’s instincts were right.

“The leg was actually pulled back to the side,” Pavletic explained. “The dog had triceps muscle, which are the muscles right behind the elbow and above the elbow area, which were damaged and contracted that was pulling the leg backwards,” Pavletic said.

Pavletic and the rest of the Angell team decided to try a state-of-the-art muscle transplant procedure using a surgical technique developed by Dr. Pavletic himself.

During Bella’s surgery, the doctors moved muscle tissue from one part of Bella’s body to her injured leg, essentially teaching the transplanted tissue to perform the work of the damaged muscle and help Bella regain mobility in her leg.

“It’s not common,” Dr. Pavletic told WHDH 7 News of his innovative and successful procedure. “We’ve used other muscles for reconstructive surgery in veterinary medicine and certainly human medicine as well. This was, I think, one of the first for almost complete replacement of the triceps muscle.”

After receiving her muscle transplant surgery, Bella has regained mobility in her leg and is up and moving again.

Perhaps the only person more elated at the surgery’s success than Bella’s veterinarians is her relieved owner, Anthony Martinetti.

“I’m overjoyed that Bella continues to recuperate and our family is grateful to the many talented individuals who have overseen her recovery,” Martinetti said in a statement made to Boston.com.

As Bella continues on her road to recovery, completing physical therapy sessions at the clinic, doctors are happy to report that her prognosis is excellent.

“[Bella’s] road to recovery is a long one,” Dr. Pavletic said, “but we’re confident she’ll get back to her old self in time.”

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