At The Donaldson’s Vets Maple Street Hospital, we treat the out-of-hours emergency cases for the whole Donaldson’s Group and so this tends to mean that we deal with a lot of trauma cases. Having a strong interest in orthopaedics, I tend to deal with a lot of the fractures that require surgical repair.
This last few weeks, we seem to have seen a large number of orthopaedic cases resulting from a variety of trauma situations.
We have seen cats with fractured pelvises and dislocated hips following road traffic accidents; we have seen a farm dog which has been knocked down by a tractor, we have had several dogs who have ruptured cranial cruciate ligaments in their knee joints, and we have even had a cat who was knocked down by his owner’s car while sunbathing on the drive.
Today, we have treated a 13 year old Lurcher called Bonnie with a fractured humerus. Initially, it was suspected that the shoulder was dislocated as Bonnie was so painful that it was difficult to examine her. However, on X ray it was immediately obvious that the injury was slightly lower down her leg.
Mid way between her elbow and her shoulder, there was a nasty spiral fracture and the bones had badly overridden each other. The fracture was very unstable and, even after many years of repairing fractures, the crunch of bone on bone still makes me wince.
I spoke at length to Bonnie’s owners. At 13 years old, Bonnie was an old dog to undergo a major fracture repair but, despite her age, Bonnie was a pretty fit and active dog before the accident so it was decided to progress to Theatre.
Bonnie’s leg was prepared for surgery then she was transferred to the High Sterility Operating Theatre.
I carefully dissected down to the fracture site and manipulated the ends of the fractured bone until they keyed together perfectly like pieces of a jigsaw. A single screw and thin pin were used to temporarily stabilise the bone fragments and a plate was contoured to the shape of her leg and screwed above and below the fracture site to rigidly stabilise the bones. The plate is called a Dynamic Compression Plate and it allows us to compress the bone fragment together which stimulates the bone healing.
Post-operative Xrays confirmed that the fracture was well aligned.
As Bonnie is an old dog, the fracture will take about 3 months to heal fully but I was pleased to see her walking and bearing weight on the injured leg within 6 hours of coming out of Theatre.
While we should always think carefully before performing a major procedure, Bonnie is proof that even older dogs can be remarkably resilient at recovering from major surgery.