The GOLD STANDARD IN rehabilitation treatments and wellness programmes for dogs

Condition Guide

Arthrodesis

What is Arthrodesis?

Arthrodesis in non-vet-speak means the surgical fusion of a joint. Basically the bones are fused to form a permanently joined joint so that there is no movement in this part of the limb. Arthrodesis is a salvage procedure that is generally only performed when there are no other options to save the function of the joint. The shoulder, elbow, carpal (wrist), stifle (knee), hock (ankle) and digit (toe) joints can be arthrodesed.

Why would an Arthrodesis be recommended?

The principle indications for arthrodesis are:

What does Arthrodesis involve?

There are a number of steps to fuse a joint including the removal of cartilage, grafting bone into the gaps in the joint and plating the joint to secure it in place. It’s really important to restrict exercise for eight to twelve weeks and the vet is sure the bones have fused.

The majority of arthrodesis operations are uneventful and are not associated with complications, however, these are major procedures and thus the following complications are possible:

  • loosening or breakage of implants (plates, screws, pins) may occur if the joint fails to fuse in sufficient time. Implant failure can result in joint instability and necessitate further surgery
  • wound problems, such as breakdown and infection, are primarily associated with arthrodesis of the carpal (wrist) and hock (ankle) joints. Wound management within the first few weeks of surgery is of vital importance to minimise this risk. Dressings are often applied to the limb to minimise swelling and prevent the patient interfering with the wound
  • fracture of bones adjacent to the fused joint may occur due to the abnormal forces that result following arthrodesis surgery.

What is post surgical life like after Arthrodesis?

Limb function after arthrodesis surgery is primarily dependent on which joint is fused.

  • Wrist and ankle arthrodesis is good
  • Shoulder arthrodesis is fair
  • Elbow or knee joint arthrodesis significantly compromises limb function

In those patients where arthrodesis is indicated, the vast majority benefit from surgery.

Post surgical rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a process which aims to maximise patient mobility and wellbeing, returning them to their usual way of life following illness, injury or surgery. We restore pets to normal function (or as close as is possible), efficiently and safely using a wide variety of physiotherapeutic techniques.

Injury and even surgery can disrupt the body’s equilibrium in all sorts of direct and indirect ways. Even a pet’s own protective responses such as the inflammatory process can overwhelm and inhibit healing so one objective of rehabilitation is to reduce this level of inflammation.  During rehabilitation, we also aim to boost the circulatory system, improve muscle function, increase range of motion within joints, and stimulate innate pain-relieving mechanisms.

With a committed and planned rehabilitation programme, pets can recover more quickly, realise better outcomes and avoid much pain and discomfort.

The best rehabilitation programmes consider the whole pet, not just the area of injury; we target and improve multiple systems throughout the body without forgetting the invaluable healing effects of boosting mental wellbeing too. From the wound healing properties of laser treatment, and the muscle strengthening of hydrotherapy, to the circulation boosting effects of massage, we will devise a rehabilitation programme to match a pet’s specific requirements.

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The content on this page is for advice and information only and does not represent veterinary guidance or direction. Please always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are worries about your dog.