Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Orthopedic Adventure in a Dog

This case may be of interest to other veterinarians and even to a human specialist in bones. I will mention it as it would be unfortunate for me to die with this procedure left untold. I take you back to a day of frustration when a handsome young adult Saint Bernard was presented for consultation as to performing euthanasia due to the pain and helplessness of the dog's hind legs. I had given up with attempting to help the dog with medication and his hip joints were so bad there was nothing more I could do. It was a tearful time with the family distressed for their pet and for my having to admit my inability to help. It was an all too common a situation with frequent similar cases. I asked if rather than killing the dog I might be permitted to perform surgery that I considered would be of no help but I would at least try something that was not mentioned in surgical procedures for man or beast. It would be an experiment at no cost for the owners. For those without knowledge of the problem it consists of a defective hip joint in which the ball of the ball and socket joint slips in and out of the too shallow socket resulting in pain with every motion of the rear legs. My procedure was to remove the ball of the heads of the femurs. I performed the surgery with literally a hammer and a wood chisel from my work bench. Of course sterilized. The surgery was more difficult than I had imagined and if repeated I would use a giggly saw at the neck of the ball of the joint. It was a difficult and lengthy operation. The huge dog was placed in our recovery room until he had recovered from the anesthesia when I personally helped him to his feet. Much to my surprise that dog used those legs better than before the surgery. I couldn't believe it and the following day had the owners come and take him home for convalescing. That dog led a satisfactory life with hardly a limp in his hind quarters and eventually was euthanized for old age complications. My request for permission to perform a necropsy to study the hip joints was given. The findings were so surprising I could hardly believe it. The socket part of the pelvis had flattened with cartilage and the femur had likewise flattened and within the area between was fluid as in a normal joint capsule. Frankly the surgery was so crude and so difficult I did not offer to perform it on another dog.

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