External Skeletal Fixation (ESF) is an effective method of fracture repair that is minimally invasive. ESF is a device which secures the fracture fragments with pins fixed outside the body to a rigid frame.
Types Of External Fixators
● Standard External Skeletal Fixation – This is the most commonly used form of external fixation. The standard ESF contains percutaneous transfixation pins that penetrate the bone and are attached to outside bars that connect the pins.
● Circular External Skeletal Fixation – Circular ESF frames consist of pins that are very slim and they penetrate both sides of the bone and skin – the pins connect to a metal plate that is circular in shape. Veterinary surgeons will commonly use circular external skeletal fixators in conjunction with small diameter fixation wires placed under tension. A circular external skeletal fixation is used to heal complicated fractures and for correcting angular limb deformity.
● Hybrid External Skeletal Fixation – A hybrid ESF has similarities to both the standard and circular external skeletal fixation. You will commonly use Hybrid External Skeletal Fixators for growth deformities and fractures.
What ESF Frames Are Used For
Veterinary clinics will use ESF frames in dogs and cats for a variety of reasons, including:
• Stabilizing joints
• Fracture stabilization
• Correcting angular limb deformities
• Supporting tendon repairs
Caring For A Pet With An External Fixator
When your pet has an external fixation, you must treat the area correctly. Below are a few care rules that you must follow to prevent your pet from contracting any infections:
● You MUST bandage the pins on the external skeletal fixator
● Don’t over-exercise your pet or allow it to move around too much. You need to keep the skin around the pin stabilized otherwise, the soft tissues will move whenever your pet walks. If there is too much movement of the skin around the pin, it will lead to pin tract inflammation and infection can follow.
● If your pet is showing any signs of discomfort or pain, administer a painkiller pill.
● The site where the pins are needs to be cleaned carefully and thoroughly. Remove the bandage and sponges that are around the fixator and pins. Use a sponge or Q-tips to soak away any discharge or crust that has accumulated around the site of the pins and the bars of the fixator. Do not use soap to clean away the discharge; you must use a diluted antiseptic. For more information on how to clean your pet’s pin site, contact your veterinary surgery. After you have cleaned the area, you need to reapply the sponge to the pins and also between the bars of the fixator. Use vet wrap or white tape to secure the sponge in place.
● If the area around the pin is cared for correctly, the discharge should cease and the skin should heal quickly.
● If you do not treat the pin site properly, it can become infected and painful. It will also take longer for the skin to heal.
Like with any surgery, there is a potential for complications to arise. Several things can occur with an ESF, including:
● The pin can loosen
● The pin can migrate
● The pin site can become infected
● The pins can bend
● If one of the pins is rubbing against one of your pet’s arteries, profound acute hemorrhage can occur at the pin site. Your veterinary surgeon must remove the pin.
If you notice any of the above signs with your pet’s ESF after they have had an external skeletal fixator surgery, contact your vet immediately.
Removing The External Skeletal Fixation
When the skin has healed around the pin site, the ESF will get taken off in several stages. Removing the fixator in stages allows for the bone to strengthen. If there have been no complications, it usually takes between three and four months before we can remove the external fixation.
Get Professional Help from an Experienced Vet
The Arkansas Veterinary Surgery Center is a regional referral surgery center for orthopedic surgery on dogs, cats, and some exotic species. We are part of South County Animal Hospital in Greenwood, Arkansas. Our chief surgeon is Dr. Mark E. Sharp a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Oklahoma State University. We do both mobile surgery at your regular vet’s office and surgeries at our hospital. If you have a pet in need of a skilled surgeon for orthopedic procedures call us at 479-996-6095