Nature at work - a fractured femur
Angie Vetter’s blue cattle dog “Scar” was only 18 months old when she fell out of the back of the Ute. She was 70 km from Charleville. Much to Angie’s distress “Scar” remained missing. Then 6 weeks later she reappeared in Charleville. She was slightly lame but weight bearing in her right hind leg. What she had survived on we don’t know.
X-rays revealed a malaligned but healing fracture of the femur (photo right). We discussed refracturing the leg and realigning the fracture. We felt that “Scar” would suffer less trauma at this late stage if we left her. We would just wait and see.
Over the next few weeks "Scar" continued to improve. She would occasionally show some pain if she landed hard on the limb.
At 16 weeks post injury we Xrayed her leg again (photo on left) to find increased calas formation. Nature was still busy at work trying to heal her leg.
Left - Seven years later – a functional but deformed femur. Scar doesn't exhibit any signs of pain on the limb.
So – Why the need for orthopaedic surgery?
Nature certainly has wonderful fracture healing abilities. However, outcomes can vary greatly depending on the type/severity of the injury, the duration and degree of pain and also the size, age and nature of the animal. In “Scar’s” case most of these factors were in her favour. However, in many cases the animal can be left with a non healing fracture or poor result and ongoing pain. By performing orthopaedic surgery as soon as possible, the bone segments can be realigned and the healing process hastened. With some very young animals fractures can be healed in as little as six weeks.
Left is a fractured femur only a few hours after the initial accident.
A similar fracture following orthopaedic surgery. An intramedullary stainless steel pin realigns and stabilises the segments. (Note also the irregular appearance of this little dog's other femur suggesting a previous fracture at some stage.)
At left is an example 8 weeks post surgery at the time of pin removal. You may notice that the threaded end is no longer lodged in the distal end of the femur where it should be. The dog may not have stayed as quite as we like, but the fracture is nicely healed.
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