What is Digit Amputation?
Digit amputation is a surgical procedure used to treat conditions affecting the toes that are unresponsive to conservative treatment. Amputation is the treatment of choice for digit cancers. There are two types of digit amputation: partial and total. Partial amputation is the removal of only part of a phalange, or toe. Total amputation is the removal of the entire phalange. Cats that undergo digit amputation may also require additional treatments in order to manage the underlying condition.
Digit Amputation Procedure in Cats
- The cat will undergo preoperative testing to ensure it is safe to undergo anesthesia.
- General anesthesia and analgesics will be administered intravenously.
- The surgeon will clean the toes prior to amputation.
- The surgeon will make the initial incision into the skin.
- A tourniquet or stay sutures will be used to cut off blood supply to the toe(s) requiring amputation.
- A scalpel or laser will be used to remove the toe(s), surrounding collateral ligaments, and extensor and flexor tendons.
- The surgeon will then close the wound using absorbable sutures.
- The cat may be hospitalized following surgery depending on its condition.
- A pressure bandage will be applied for up to forty-eight hours
Efficacy of Digit Amputation in Cats
The efficacy of digit amputation will vary based on the condition it was used to treat as well as which toes were amputated. A cat’s third and fourth toes bear the majority of its weight. If these toes are amputated, a cat will have a more difficult time adjusting. In cats diagnosed with cancer, the prognosis will vary based on the type of cancer diagnosed. Squamous cell carcinoma treated with digit amputation tends to have a better prognosis than melanoma.
Digit Amputation Recovery in Cats
Analgesics will be prescribed to manage postoperative pain, and antibiotics will also be prescribed to prevent infection. Cats will need to wear a bandage for one week following surgery to prevent contamination and wound rupture. Cats should be able to bear weight on the limb after it is released from the hospital. However, activity should be reduced or prohibited for up to three weeks after surgery to prevent delayed healing. Owners should monitor the surgery site each day to ensure bleeding, swelling, and/or drainage has not occurred. A follow-up appointment will take place two weeks after surgery to remove sutures, monitor healing, and administer additional treatments.
Cats that have been diagnosed with malignant cancers will also require radiation or chemotherapy. Four to six rounds of chemotherapy are usually administered at three-week intervals. Radiation treatment will begin two weeks after surgery, and will take place five days per week for up to twenty-one sessions. Short-acting anesthesia will be required for these treatments. Cats that have been diagnosed with melanoma may benefit from a melanoma vaccine.
Cost of Digit Amputation in Cats
The cost of digit amputation in cats will vary based on standards of living and additional costs incurred, such as preoperative testing and additional treatments. The average cost of digit amputation is $350.
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Cat Digit Amputation Considerations
Complications of digit amputation, although rare, are possible, and may include:
- Wound rupture
- Tumor recurrence
- Lameness of the limb
Most postoperative complications resolve fairly easily and quickly. In rare cases, digit amputation will result in loss of limb function or lameness. Additional surgery may be required to correct this complication.
Digit Amputation Prevention in Cats
Cats should be prohibited from engaging in activities that may result in severe trauma to the toes, including falling from heights and being struck by a vehicle. Genetic and cancerous conditions cannot be prevented. Cats diagnosed with a genetic defect or cancer should not be bred.
Digit Amputation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
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