The Orthopedic Service deals with problems associated with bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Because all of these structures must work together and be healthy for our pets to have a comfortable life, it is important that conditions affecting these tissues be appropriately managed.
What is Orthopedics?
There are many problems that come under the Orthopedic umbrella. The most obvious is the management of broken bones from injuries, with the majority a result of being hit by a car. When a major bone is broken, the fastest, most comfortable road to recovery is often surgical stabilization of the bone. In many cases, the animal will be able to move around comfortably sooner. Surgery may also be the best approach to ensure that the bone heals straight and solidly and that the leg functions well afterwards. Fractures involving joints nearly always need surgery to avoid severe arthritis.
A circular external skeletal fixator
has been placed on a Rottweiler
with a deformity of the
distal portion of the tibia.
Another common condition managed by Orthopedic specialists is hip dysplasia which causes pain in the hip joints of many dogs. Starting as loose hip joints in puppies, this often progresses to significant arthritis as the animals get older. There are a number of surgical options that can help prevent, reduce or eliminate the joint degeneration. The Orthopedic Service at the NCSU VH is a leader in the development of uncemented total hip replacement for dogs.
More information on hip dysplasia can be found at:
Another developmental condition that can affect joints is Osteochondrosis which develops when the dog is young. The shoulder, elbow, knee and hock can all be affected. The problem In many of these conditions, early surgery can help reduce the joint damage and slow the progression of arthritis.
Injury to the cruciate ligament of the knee is another problem that is commonly managed with surgery. When the cruciate ligament tears, the instability in the joint leads to development of arthritis. At surgery, the joint is inspected for damage, torn ligaments and injured menisci are removed if necessary, and a stabilization procedure is performed.
Why might I need an Orthopedic specialist?
Many veterinarians in practice are able to do most orthopedic procedures. A specialist, however, has undergone a concentrated training program in surgery, and has passed the rigorous examinations of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. This training and experience have refined their skills and knowledge to improve their ability to diagnose the problem and perform any surgical procedures necessary.
At the NCSU-VHC, we have access to state-of-the-art support services that provide high quality radiographic and ultrasonic studies. These may identify problems missed using conventional equipment. The CAT scan unit enables us to take slices at every millimeter of our area of interest, providing a very detailed picture. These images can even be reconstructed into 3-dimensional forms to improve our understanding of the anatomy of the problem and assist in planning a surgery.
We also have access to much of the latest surgical equipment available. Current examples include the new titanium bone plate system, an Interlocking nail system for dogs, and the most advanced circular fixator system in the country.
The specialists at the VH are involved in the study of many conditions and techniques which results in advances that can be shared with the rest of the profession. If one of our surgeons feels that a new imaging technique or surgery will benefit a patient, the implications of this will be discussed with the owner in depth as the patient's health and comfort takes precedence in all decisions.