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Surgical Treatment for the Mature Patient

Canine Hip Dysplasia-Part 3.

Surgical Treatment for the Mature Patient

Although it is highly preferable to diagnose and treat canine hip dysplasia (CHD) in the immature patient, numerous dogs are presented with initial clinical signs of pain and lameness associated with hip subluxation once they have achieved maturity. While triple pelvic osteotomies are routinely performed on mature dogs with no or minimal pre-existing degenerative joint disease with a great degree of success, when moderate to severe radiographic changes of osteoarthritis are present, excision arthroplasty with or without a biceps sling or total hip replacement (THR) is indicated as the likelihood of success with a triple pelvic osteotomy is minimized. The purpose of this article is to discuss the advantages and disadvantages as well as the indication for each of these procedures.

Any discussion about the operative procedures utilized for degenerative disease of the canine coxofemoral joint must be preceded by mention of the fact that the procedure ultimately performed depends upon the surgeon’s experience and training. While this seems intuitively obvious, surgeons are extremely adamant in their views (also intuitively obvious) about which procedure is beset for management of degenerative hip dysplasia in the canine. While some surgeons consider a femoral head and neck excision, a salvage procedure one step short of an amputation, others feel that the inherent risks involved in a THR do not warrant its utilization as a form of treatment. In light of this fact, the discussion of the operative procedures available will proceed from the least aggressive to the most aggressive options rather than from worst to best or visa versa.

Femoral head and neck ostectomy (FHO) is a relatively simple procedure that has been used frequently to eliminate the pain experienced by dysplastic patients. Because the procedure does not reconstruct an intact coxofemoral joint, normal function of the joint is not restored. While the formation of a false joint often alleviates pain and produces increased weight bearing ability on the affected limb, post-operative sequellae including shortening of the affected limb, muscle atrophy, decreased range of motion of the pseudoarthrosis and continued pain, and/or lameness is not uncommon after simple excision of the femoral head and neck. Although these residual clinical signs may result from the biomechanical alterations associated with the formation of a false joint, they may also be attributable to persistent abnormal contact of the proximal femur with the pelvis. For these reasons, various modifications of the standard technique for excision arthroplasty have been developed to prevent bone on bone contact between the cut surface of the femoral neck and the acetabulum.

My own clinical observation has been that in dogs receiving excision, arthroplasty of the femoral head and neck alone increased morbidity, and generally overall, poorer results are achieved than if an ancillary, interpositional procedure is concurrently performed. It is therefore my own personal preference to discourage utilization of a simple FHO for treatment of degenerative joint disease of the canine hip and to rely instead on an ancillary interpositional procedure in combination with an FHO or total hip replacement. While a variety of tissues including the joint capsule and the deep gluteal and biceps femoris muscles have been mobilized to prevent bone on bone contact between the pelvis and the cut surface of the femoral neck, utilization of the biceps femoris allows for a wider and thicker flap of muscle to be mobilized easily for translocation.

The advantages and disadvantages of performance of a biceps sling compared to a simple FHO have been debated for a number of years. Surgeons that discourage its utilization argue that the increased operative time and potential morbidity (i.e., increased swelling or edema of the operated limb, wound infection, sciatic nerve entrapment), outweigh any potential benefits including excellent coverage of the ostectomy site, to decreased bone on bone contact, and the promotion of early post-surgical use of the limb.

Over the course of the last nine years, I have had considerable exposure to and experience with the biceps sling, and my clinical impression is that these patients, while perhaps not being restored to a totally normal state, fare far better than if a simple FHO had been performed. In fact, the overwhelming majority return to at least good, if not excellent, function over a relatively short period of time, free from pain, discomfort, and crepitation at the ostectomy site. Excision arthroplasty of the femoral head and neck utilizing a biceps femoris muscle sling is certainly an effective alternative to total hip replacement.

Total hip replacement is a rewarding method of treatment for canine hip dysplasia as the best approach to restoring normal hip function is to reestablish as closely as possible normal joint configuration. While standard operative procedures have been in use for more than 15 years, recent advances in surgical technique and modifications of the implants themselves have led to greater acceptance of the procedure as complication rates have decreased and long term success has been documented. The hesitancy to recommend THR as the primary means of treatment of canine hip dysplasia outside of limited availability and cost has been the potential for complications including prosthesis dislocation, deep infection, loosening of the implants, femoral fracture, and sciatic neuropraxia. Once again, by paying strict attention to detail, the potential for complications following THR is minimized and excellent long-term success rates can be achieved, clearly demonstrating the THR is an effective method of treating canine hip dysplasia.

In conclusion, it should be mentioned that patient selection for any of the aforementioned procedures is of the utmost importance. A dog that has hip dysplasia but has clinically sound ambulatory function is not a candidate for surgery. Many dogs function with minimal pain or impairment on medical management alone, despite tremendous bony changes. Others, with what appear to be minimal lesions, are severely hindered. It follows then that a reasonable effort at medical management must have been tried and failed. The point of medical failure must be clearly recognized, however, because continuing medical therapy after these treatments have become ineffective decreases the chances for surgical success. In addition, an accurate neurologic examination is mandatory, as many myelopathies co-exist in dysplastic dogs. If there is the presence of neurologic degeneration, the dog should not be considered a surgical candidate.

In response to the poor results consistently obtained with excision arthroplasty in large dogs, my recommendation is to avoid this procedure as a treatment for hip dysplasia and to rely instead on a biceps sling surgery or a total hip replacement. The determination of which of these two procedures to use depends upon the client’s expectations for return to function and the degree to which they are willing to accept the potential limitations and/or complications associated with each procedure.

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