Laois surgeon helps amputee cat


Oscar the cat has regained a spring in his step following innovative surgery by Dr Noel Fitzpatrick to fit him with a pair of prosthetic paws.

The two-and-a-half-year-old had his rear paws amputated by a combine harvester.

Thanks to bioengineering work by UK-based neuro-orthopaedic surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick, he has gained new feet in a world-first operation.

The revolutionary design of the feet uses custom-made implants to connent the ankle joint to the foot and mimics the way in which deer antler bone grows through skin.

Oscar's road to recovery began after his local vet from St Saviour in Jersey referred his owners, Kate and Mike Nolan, to Dr Fitzpatrick in Eashing, Surrey.

Mrs Nolan said she and her husband had to do a lot of "soul-searching" before deciding to go ahead with the operation. "Our main concern has always been whether this operation would be in Oscar’s best interests and would give him a better quality of life."

Working with a team from University College London (UCL), Co Laois-born Dr Fitzpatrick pioneered the use of the weight-bearing prosthetic implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology.

In Oscar’s case, the procedure was complicated by the fact that his feet were severed at the junction between the ankle bones and the arch of the foot. He has since been fitted with a series of prototype new paws to ensure the best possible long-term fit - and is back to his normal happy self.

“The real revolution with Oscar is because we have put a piece of metal and flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone, with very narrow tolerances in the region of nanometres, rather than millimetres," Dr Fitzpatrick said.

"We have then successfully managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an exoprosthesis that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal’s limbs to give him effectively normal gait."

The work of Dr Fitzpatrick, who was born in Mountmellick, will feature as part of a six-part BBC One documentary series, The Bionic Vet, starting later this month.