I walked into surgery today not to fix an animal, but to stop that animal’s pain. Sometimes that is all that is possible, however personally I believe that no animal should suffer so this option is better than leaving the animal in pain.
This surgery is listed in the textbooks as a salvage procedure, a surgery of last resort when nothing else has worked or is possible. It is for the hip joint when there are such severe arthritic changes that it is just pure pain with every movement. The options with damage to this joint in mild cases is for pain management via medication, however when it gets to a severe stage the only option becomes total joint replacement.
Total hip joint replacement is an option that is very real within the UK, and within specialist referral veterinary hospitals a common procedure that takes place on a weekly basis. However this can be an expensive procedure, though if you do have pet insurance may be covered under this so it is worth checking if you have pet insurance.
When total joint replacement is not possible, then the only option when pain medication fails tends to be the femoral head and neck ostectomy. This is a surgery where the top part of the femur (the thigh bone) that forms the joint connection to the hip is removed. The movement of this bone against the socket in the hip is what usually causes the pain, so the removal of this part of the bone stops the movement and so stops the pain.
The muscles around this joint are pretty strong, and during the months after the surgery the space will be filled with new tissue and the surrounding muscles will develop more. However this surgery does mean that the animal will be permanently lame and have a limp. In some cases the leg may even appear a little shorter than the opposite leg, however there will be no pain, and the patients I have seen with this surgery have recovered well to become very active again.
This is also a different surgery in a different way, as after the surgery instead of restricting the animal to cage rest the animal should be lead walked straight away to help the development and strengthening of the muscles. The difference with patients that I have seen from before surgery and a week later has been remarkable. However I hope that one day total hip joint replacement will become affordable for every animal in every country.
With the start of week 4, time already seems to be flying away from me. Monday’s are really light for me this semester with just 1 lecture first thing in the morning. This means that I have the option to spend the rest of my time either in surgery or studying extra things that are not normally gone into in detail. Or of course I can spend my time going over stuff again as they repetition is key.
After my lecture today I ended up heading towards clinic, and arrived as they announced an afternoon surgery for a fracture repair by the department director. Enough for me to get interested so I stuck around.
Now somehow I ended up doing anaesthesia, here we don’t really have any monitoring equipment so everything must be monitored manually. With normal animals you can generally see if the chest is moving for breathing, however when it comes to birds because the chest is covered by the wings this is more difficult. Personally I tend to try and keep a finger on the chest to feel for the movement (even this can be tricky when its a surgery which requires movement of the leg which cause more movement).
So this owl had suffered some kind of trauma which resulted in fractures in both of the legs. One of these was pretty easy to fix with the “break” being in a part of the long bone of the femur. This was repaired with a intramedullary pin. The second fracture was a lot more interesting. At the end of the femur there is something called the femoral head which sticks out sideways and connects to the hip joint. The fracture here was between the femoral head and the main part of the femur so on a very small yet important piece of bone. This was wired back together, because the bone here is so soft the wire could be placed simply by using needles to pass it through.
The owl was then recovered from the anaesthetic, and taking down to one of the bird boxes where it will have a chance to heal before being released.
If you notice I am holding the owl through a towel, whilst this prevents struggle it is even more important that human contact is limited so that the owl does not become imprinted (and then tame). There will be very limited human contact now until release.
Its the end of my 4th week of Vet School already! Time is flying by which is kind of Scary as I am still a long way from having tuition for next semester in February and its under 4 months away now! I’ve made plans to revamp my money raising stragety this weekend and am toying with a few ideas.
The lecture this morning overran into the time allocated for our Milk Hygiene practical which was a little sad. Today was on the microbiology of milk which is a little scary when you start to think how much milk is actually used in different ways and then just how many bacteria it is susceptable to.
Onto Genetics practical, this week we are looking at the chromosome and karyotyping, this practical session was on the examination of these from the bone marrow.
There are two ways to collect bone marrow depending on the species, today was on the post mortem collection and was from the femur of a mouse. This type of animal is too small to allow for collection of bone marrow in any other way and so after euthanasia the femur was removed, and the marrow cavity exposed. This was then rinsed out to collect the cells of the bone marrow which were then centrifuged and the supernatant removed to leave just the cells in the tube before staining solution was applied. This does have to be left for some time so we are coming back to examine these at another time. I will also write an entire post on the Chromosome at somepoint in the next week or so as we are looking at this over the entire next few weeks.