Young Rufus’s leap leads to fractured leg!

Rufus at his post-op check

A big hello to little Rufus who is our November Pet of the Month! Rufus was only 5 months old and out for an exciting day when he jumped out of the car, yelped and suddenly couldn’t use his back right leg. At this young age, we suspected damage to the growth plates around his knee (stifle). An x-ray confirmed he had indeed fractured his tibia (shinbone) through the growth plate just below his knee, which is known as separation of the proximal tibial physis. If not corrected, this injury leads to severe disability and loss of mobility in the stifle.

Early replacement and fixation of breaks of this kind is essential. We achieved this by levering the fractured segment back into place and then used a pair of cross pins and a tension band wire to increase holding power. Cross pins are more effective than parallel pins as pins fixed at different angles have a much better holding power and are more stable as they require different directional forces to displace them. 

Levering the fractured bone back into position
Cross pins and tension band wire in place
X-ray showing pins and band. Thinner fibula bone also fractured in 2 places but well-enough aligned and will heal naturally

Immediately on waking up Rufus could use his leg again and the challenge has been keeping him quiet enough to allow the fracture to heal.

In young animals, their long bones grow from growth plates which are situated near the end of the bones. Although the growth plates are natural weak points because they are softer than the bone around them, we thankfully see very few injuries associated with them. When injuries do occur, the most commonly damaged growth plate is at the top of the tibia – like Rufus’s injury – because the powerful quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh is attached to the top of the tibia and creates a strong pulling force on the weaker growth plate. 

Once an animal’s growing phase has finished, growth plates calcify and become part of the main bone, the weaker, softer bone disappearing.