Broken bones are fun to fix

January 27, 2013Surgery
Author: David S. Thomson DVM

Broken bones are fun to fix. No question!

When I started out as a young veterinarian, leash laws were lax, and the caseload from auto/dog encounters was high, so I repaired lots of crunched up limbs. I was new at this, and I remember getting lost at some point in almost every surgery. Where does this piece go? Do I cut this muscle or can I just retract it? Where am I, and where is that radial nerve? But I persevered. And what satisfaction it brings when it all works out. An animal comes in shattered and goes home in one piece.

In those early days we were definitely part of the carpenter school of orthopedics. And we had all the neat tools: drills, saws, pliers, rasps, files, hammers, chisels, pins, nails, plates, screws, wires, washers, clamps. We put broken bones back together no matter how grizzly and invasive the process. We often had pieces of bone out on the table like jigsaw puzzle pieces. And in the end, we reveled in our elegant post-op x-rays showing all the pieces held in place with an intricate web of metal implants.

Now I’ve become more of a gardener and less of a carpenter, nurturing the biological environment of the fracture more, invading the injured tissue as little as possible, and supplying only the minimal reduction and fixation needed to get the injury to heal. The post-op x-rays may not be nearly so pretty, but the results are even better.

When all is said and done, the satisfaction of putting a broken pet back together and the joy that brings to the owner are hard to beat.

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Anat and Catherine, Northampton

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Cori, West Springfield

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Marcie, Holyoke

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Jim and Rosalee, Granby