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).
The arrow points to the fracture on this lateral view
The fracture from a different view
Graphic surgery photos on this page.
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.
This meticulous preparation starts with our surgeon and our instruments
The technique of taping the leg up is the standard in how we clip and clean the leg prior to surgery
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.
We use a sophisticated anesthetic monitor to constantly assess important parameters
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
Our anesthetist works closely with our surgeon to make sure just enough anesthetic is given at the lowest possible dose
Our anesthetist is using a stethoscope to monitor the heart
We have a detailed page on anesthesia for much more information on how we anesthetize a wide variety of species.
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.
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.
A layer of tissue over the muscle is cut with scissors
Our surgeon carefully dissects through the muscle to get down to the bone
After carefully dissecting through specific muscle planes a special instrument is used to spread the tissue for better access to the fracture
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.
The fracture end from a different angle
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.
A special instrument is used to slowly rotate the pin through the shaft of the bone as it is placed completely into the bone
Once the pin is in place a stainless steel bone plate is hand molded to the contour of the femur
A hole is drilled into the bone
A tap less screw is then inserted
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.
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.
Our post operative radiographs show what was done
Can you see all 3 aspects of the stability?
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.
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
This special laser aids in healing, and decreases pain and inflammation after the surgery
After surgery our rabbit patients are wrapped in a towel and closely watched by our staff until fully awake