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Open Access Femoral Fracture Repair and Postoperative Management in New Zealand White Rabbits

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Low bone density and large muscle mass predispose rabbits to femoral fractures. However, there are few reports describing treatment and prognosis. Two New Zealand White rabbits presented with unilateral left rear limb abduction and lateral rotation of the distal left rear limb 2 and 17 days after experimental surgery to create a “stair step” in the patellar groove of the left medial femoral chondyle. This procedure was performed after approval by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Radiography revealed a spiral oblique mid-shaft fracture of the left femur in both rabbits. Open fracture reduction was undertaken. Because of the presence of screws and Kirschner-wires in the medial femoral condyle, a lateral approach to surgical correction was chosen. Intramedullary fixation was used to reduce and stabilize the fractures. A 0.062" Kirschner wire was selected for the intramedullary device, because it was sufficiently flexible to allow easy passage into the femoral canal while being sufficiently stiff to promote reduction of the fracture. In addition, the ends of the fracture were secured with a 0.032" Kirschner cerclage wire to provide additional control of rotation and angulation. Then we assessed the range of motion of the knee joint to determine fracture stability and ensure that the hardware did not impinge on soft-tissue elements. After closure and application of sterile dressing, the hind legs were hobbled proximal to the hock by using elastic veterinary wrap in a figure-eight pattern to maintain limb alignment and prevent formation of pressure ulcers. Intraoperative fluoroscopic evaluation and postoperative radiographs confirmed fracture reduction. Bruising and seroma formation occurred at the surgical site, and transient anorexia developed. Rabbits were treated with fluids, analgesics, antibiotics, and fitted with Elizabethan collars. They were housed in isolation to limit excessive environmental stimulation, which could alarm them and provoke “thumping” of the rear legs. Muscular weakness and atrophy developed in the affected legs, but the fractures remained immobilized. Radiographs obtained 21 days after surgery confirmed marked callus formation and integrity of the implanted hardware. Four weeks after surgical fixation, both rabbits showed increased muscle development in the repaired leg and were ambulating normally. The long-term prognosis was excellent. These cases demonstrate that repair of femoral fractures in rabbits can be achieved by using basic orthopedic techniques and diligent post-operative management.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Section of Comparative Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510 2: Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510

Publication date: 01 July 2002

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  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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