What is Excision Arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty is a type of surgical procedure designed to reconstruct a joint (normally by re-aligning tissues) in order to restore functionality. An 'excision arthroplasty' relies on cutting tissue away from the structures within the joint so as to allow it to move again. Most commonly, it is usually used in dogs to repair the hip, involving the head and neck of the femoral bone being cut off with no prosthetic replacement being installed, allowing the main body of the bone to directly enter the joint. The procedure is usually performed only as a last resort in conditions that are causing the dog in question a severe amount of pain or debilitation.

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Excision Arthroplasty Procedure in Dogs

Before the operation begins, the dog will be put under a general anesthetic to ensure that it will neither feel pain nor move during the surgery. The vet will then see that the hair on the dog's hip is shaved off and the exposed skin disinfected. The next step is for the vet to make an incision through the skin and to separate the muscles below, exposing the joint. The surgeon will then move to cut the femoral head and neck away from the femur without damaging the hip bone. There are several methods and tools that can be used for this process. Finally, the incision will be sewn back up and the dog will be allowed to awaken.

Efficacy of Excision Arthroplasty in Dogs

After the operation, there will be a period of rehabilitation and physiotherapy that will take place in order for the dog to get used to the new alignment of its hip joint, making it difficult to immediately ascertain the effectiveness of the procedure. In most cases, however, the dog will make a good recovery if the proper steps are taken to ensure it heals properly. That said, the dog may display signs of a somewhat altered gait and may still have some residual discomfort when walking for long periods of time (though this is more common in larger breeds who put more pressure on the joint). Instead of performing an excision arthroplasty, some owners may wish to explore alternative treatments such a full hip replacement. Although a prosthetic replacement for the femoral head and neck can provide greater stability and support to the joint, it should be remembered that they can cause damage to the supporting structures surrounding the hip, and will merely perpetuate problems in dogs suffering from hip dysplasia.

Excision Arthroplasty Recovery in Dogs

When the procedure has been completed, the dog will need plenty of rest for the hip to heal correctly, meaning that its exercise levels will have to be significantly decreased in the first several weeks of recovery. Additionally, owners will have to provide regular doses of painkillers and antibiotics in order to minimize the chances of discomfort and infection occurring. The dog will require regular visits to the vet to both monitor its healing progress and to go through physiotherapy sessions (which will be required for several weeks, if not months). Damage to tissues within the hip joint such as cartilage is unlikely, due mainly to the fibrous tissue growth that will appear around the end of the femur. Still, owners should still keep an eye out for the dog displaying signs of discomfort, as issues can be corrected if caught early.

Cost of Excision Arthroplasty in Dogs

The full price of having an excision arthroplasty performed on a dog can vary significantly depending on factors such as the age of the animal and the availability of qualified surgeons in the local area. The majority of such procedures will cost between $1,500 and $3,000. By way of contrast, a hip replacement will typically be more expensive due to the additional length of the procedure coupled with the cost of obtaining prosthetics, with most being over $4,000 in total.

Dog Excision Arthroplasty Considerations

Although an excision arthroplasty is sometimes the most viable treatment for a dog suffering from severe hip problems, some owners may be afraid of potential risks. The most commonly raised concern is regarding the possibility that the dog may heal improperly following the operation and effectively lose the use of the joint. Although there is a slight chance that such a scenario could arise, if the dog receives the proper aftercare and physiotherapy there is an extremely strong chance of them making a full recovery. Owners also tend to be worried about the surgical incision becoming infected, leading to more problems with the hip. Again, it is important to reiterate that if the correct aftercare procedures are followed and the dog receives a full course of antibiotics, the chances of infection are minimal.

Excision Arthroplasty Prevention in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is an inherited genetic defect that is very difficult to predict without knowledge of the health of the dog's parentage. It also means that there is no way to prevent the condition from appearing if the dog is predisposed to it. Meanwhile, damage to the femoral head is normally caused by the animal being hit by vehicles, meaning that simple adjustments to the dog's routine and living environment (such as being kept under careful supervision when close to roads and having a fence installed on property boundaries) can go a long way toward preventing the dog from placing itself in harm's way.