Rabbits have powerful muscles to their hind legs. If they get stuck or trapped in something, they can kick out and cause a bone to break. In many cases a splint or heavy bandage will suffice. After a thorough physical exam and stabilization, radiographs were obtained. Sometimes surgery is needed, as in this case of a rabbit with a transverse fracture of the femur (thigh bone).

Arrow pointing to fractured femur

The arrow points to the fracture on this lateral view

X-ray of fractured femur

The fracture from a different view

Graphic surgery photos on this page.

Examining a Rabbit Before Surgery

Before surgery we carefully examine our rabbit patients to make sure they are ready for anesthesia, and the pre-operative pain medication is working

Meticulous preparation is necessary in orthopedic surgery. If an infection gets started in a bone it tends to become deep seated and hard to control.

Our surgeon preparing sterile instruments

This meticulous preparation starts with our surgeon and our instruments


Taping up a leg prior to surgery

The technique of taping the leg up is the standard in how we clip and clean the leg prior to surgery

Anesthesia

Anesthetic monitoring is important is such a small animal, and an animal that has such a small lung capacity compared to other animals of comparable size.

Anesthetic monitor

We use a sophisticated anesthetic monitor to constantly assess important parameters

Our team monitoring anesthesia
We have a team of people that are present for our rabbit surgeries

X-ray showing small size of rabbit chest

The heart and lungs (within the red circle) are tiny compared to the size of the abdomen. Due to this unique anatomy constant monitoring is needed during anesthesia

Nurse anesthetist monitoring anesthesia

Our anesthetist works closely with our surgeon to make sure just enough anesthetic is given at the lowest possible dose

Using a stethoscope to monitor the heart during surgery
Our anesthetist is using a stethoscope to monitor the heart

Surgeon palpating the fracture site

We have a detailed page on anesthesia for much more information on how we anesthetize a wide variety of species.

Surgery

Our surgeon feels the fracture through the skin to find the best place to make the initial incision. You can see the foot double wrapped in a special towel and also plastic wrap at the lower right of the photo. The foot is not a part of the surgery, and draped this way so there is no contamination.

Skin incision over the fracture site
The initial skin incision exposes the muscle layer below. There is minimal fat under the rabbits skin so this initial skin incision has to be done carefully or else the scalpel will cut into the muscle.

Incising tissue under the skin
A layer of tissue over the muscle is cut with scissors

Dissecting through muscle layers
Our surgeon carefully dissects through the muscle to get down to the bone

Retractor opening up the surgical site over the bone
After carefully dissecting through specific muscle planes a special instrument is used to spread the tissue for better access to the fracture

Assessing the fractured bone
With the bone exposed our surgeon now assess the damage. Even though the radiographs taken before surgery give us substantial information, decisions on how to repair the fracture are only decided at this point. You can see the tip of the fracture at the arrow.

Viewing the fracture from a different angle
The fracture end from a different angle

Inserting a pin into the bone
A stainless steel intramedullary (IM) pin is placed down the shaft of the bone. This is the first part of stability of the fracture site. You can see the pin entering the open end of the bone on the left.

Using the the pin down the length of the bone
A special instrument is used to slowly rotate the pin through the shaft of the bone as it is placed completely into the bone
Measuring the bone plate

Once the pin is in place a stainless steel bone plate is hand molded to the contour of the femur

Drilling holes for the bone plate screws

A hole is drilled into the bone

Inserting a screw into the bone plate

A tap less screw is then inserted

Measuring the length of screw needed

This is repeated at the other end of the bone. You can see our surgeon measuring how deep a hole has been drilled into the bone. This helps pick a screw that is just the right length.

Replacing a screw

The correct size screw is now placed. This is the 2nd aspect of stability of the fracture site.

After putting in 3 screws our surgeon decided that more screws might damage the bone. Two cerclage wires are now used, which is the 3rd aspect of stability. When our surgeon is happy with the stability from this wire, he cuts it.

Putting a cerclage wire around the bone
Tightening the cerclage wire
Final appearance of the cerclage wires
Cutting the excess cerclage wire
Suturing the muscle layer
The tissue over the muscle is sutured
The final appearance of the sutured skin
Finally, the skin is sutured

Post operative lateral radiograph

Our post operative radiographs show what was done

Can you see all 3 aspects of the stability?

Post operative ventro dorsal (VD) radiograph

When the post operative radiographs confirm proper placement of the pin, cerclage wires, and bone plate,  our little friend is take off anesthesia, kept on 100 % oxygen, given a pain injection, kept on a heat blanket, and closely monitored until fully awake.

Monitoring patients heart just after surgery

Our patient is closely monitored in the immediate post operative period

Before fully awake we use our Companion Laser to stimulate the healing process and decrease post operative swelling at the incision

Companion laser being administered

This special laser aids in healing, and decreases pain and inflammation after the surgery

Our patient wrapped in a towel

After surgery our rabbit patients are wrapped in a towel and closely watched by our staff until fully awake