In this review of cases treated at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, the medical records of 11 cats and
84 dogs treated for spinal injury between 1995 and 2005 were reviewed. Vehicular trauma was the most common (60 cases) cause
of the spinal fracture or luxation. Lesions occurred most frequently between T3 and L3 (54 cases) and L4 and L7 (36 cases).
Thirty patients with a median neurologic score indicating a lack of deep pain perception were euthanized without treatment.
Twenty-eight ambulatory patients with a median neurologic score indicating proprioceptive deficits or ataxia were treated
with cage confinement and exercise restriction and, in three cases, splinting; they were discharged with a median neurologic
score similar to that at presentation. The median hospitalization for these animals was three days. Twenty-seven nonambulatory
and 10 ambulatory patients underwent surgery that involved various techniques. The median neurologic grade of surgical patients
improved by one point at discharge, and the median hospital stay was six days.
A nearly fourfold increase in the complication rate was noted between surgical (27%) and nonsurgical (7%) patients. The authors
concluded that patients with deep pain perception before surgery and those with voluntary motor function treated conservatively
have a good prognosis for recovery.
Spinal trauma is often seen in veterinary practice. Most injuries are related to vehicular trauma and can affect any portion
of the vertebral column. Treatments are divided into surgical and nonsurgical categories, and, in general, most clinicians
would argue for surgical decompression and stabilization for animals with unstable lesions, worsening neurologic status, and
The results of this study provide support for various treatment strategies based on clinical presentation, owner finances,
and the clinician's competency. The absence of deep pain portends a poor prognosis; however, the authors fail to describe
the timing of the neurologic evaluation and any previous use of intravenous fluids, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
medications, or analgesics. Furthermore, reporting the costs of conservative and surgical treatments would have been illuminating
for veterinarians and clients.
Bruce CW, Brisson BA, Gyselinck K. Spinal fracture and luxation in dogs and cats. A retrospective evaluation of 95 cases.
Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol 2008;21(3):280-284.
The information in "Research Updates" was provided by Veterinary Medicine Editorial Advisory Board member Joseph Harari, MS,
DVM, DACVS, Veterinary Surgical Specialists, 21 E. Mission Ave., Spokane, WA 99202.