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What is Brachial Plexus Exploration?

Brachial plexus exploration is a surgical procedure used to correct brachial plexus injuries. Brachial plexus injuries are characterized by nerve root avulsions in the armpit area resulting in paralysis of the inverted muscles. A canine must receive treatment from a veterinary specialist to make any sort of recovery, which is why vet surgeons recommend brachial plexus exploration procedures when therapy has proven to be ineffective. 

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Brachial Plexus Exploration Procedure in Dogs

Prior to surgery, the canine will be given cephalexine and methylprednisone sodium succinate intravenously. Ketoprofen will also be administered intravenously as well to control surgical pain. The skin over the affected limb will be shaved and prepared for the aseptic procedure. A general anesthetic plan will be created by the veterinarian. An example of an anesthetic plan would be intravenous injections of diazepam and thiobarbital. Oxygen and fluid supplementation (a saline solution) will be infused throughout the duration of surgery. The canine will be secured in lateral recumbency to the surgical table and the procedure will begin. Below is an outline summarizing the surgical procedure commonly used to achieve brachial plexus exploration in dogs. 

  1. A skin incision will be created, approximately 12 cm in length. 
  2. Desinsertion of the omo-transversarius muscle 
  3. Transection of the scalenius muscle 
  4. Evaluation of the muscle from the dorsal surface of the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae 5, 6 and 7.
  5. Elevation of the muscles from the latero-dorsal surface of the articular processes of the cervical vertebrae 5, 6 and 7. 
  6. Hemilaminectomy 
  7. Root avulsion and reimplantation 
  8. Closing 

Efficacy of Brachial Plexus Exploration in Dogs

The goal a veterinary specialist surgeon wishes to achieve while conducting a brachial plexus exploration in dogs is to explore the cranial portion of the brachial plexus and re-implant the roots. The surgeon will aim to re-implant at least three ventral roots in the precise area where the avulsion has taken place. 

Brachial Plexus Exploration Recovery in Dogs

Following a brachial plexus exploration, the dog will be hospitalized in order for the canine’s gait, behavior, and complete neurological function to be assessed every day. Pain management medications, such as methylprednisolone, will be administered orally for up to four days after surgery. The dog will likely require physical therapy to train the limb to function correctly once again. Once the dog is allowed to return home, physical activities will be limited to the therapy exercises recommended by the veterinary therapist. Re-examination of the canine’s condition will be required approximately six months following the time of hospital release. 

Cost of Brachial Plexus Exploration in Dogs

Brachial plexus exploration is an expensive surgery that can cost a dog owner $500 to $3,000. The price will depend on the severity of the canine’s condition and aftercare required. 

Dog Brachial Plexus Exploration Considerations

A canine affected by brachial plexus avulsion may not make a full recovery, but undergoing a brachial plexus exploration may bring the dog to the best outcome possible considering the injury. Recovering from a brachial plexus exploration takes time and a long term commitment from the pet owner. 

Brachial Plexus Exploration Prevention in Dogs

Prevent the need for a brachial plexus exploration by keeping your dog safe and out of harmful situations. Injuries to the limbs can cause brachial plexus damage, which can easily be prevented by taking proper canine safety methods.