External skeletal fixation is frequently used for fracture stabilization, arthrodesis, and angular limb deformity correction
in dogs and cats.1-8 While construct design and application can vary substantially, all external fixators (linear, circular, and hybrid) consist
of an extracorporeal frame and fixation elements—either pins or small-diameter wires—that stabilize the engaged bone segments.1 The protruding fixation elements and external frame present unique considerations with regard to appropriate postoperative
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A variety of recommendations have been made regarding the management of external fixators; however, clinical studies evaluating
the efficacy of postoperative management methods have not been reported. Our recommendations in this article reflect the limited
research available in human patients and animal models, as well as our clinical experiences.
Decreasing postoperative morbidity associated with external skeletal fixation begins during and immediately after surgery.
Proper application is essential to preventing complications and includes using safe corridors that avoid placing fixation
elements through large muscle groups or neurovascular structures, predrilling pilot holes for pin placement, using threaded
fixation pins, and ensuring that the construct applied provides adequate stability.1
1. The limb and fixator are cleaned using an unfolded and rolled gauze sponge in preparation for bandaging after surgery.
The gauze has been moistened with chlorhexidine solution.
Make release incisions through the skin and continue them via blunt dissection through the underlying soft tissues when placing
fixation elements. The release incisions should be a minimum of 1 cm and of sufficient length that the fixation element does
not create tension in the adjacent tissues as the limb is put through a full range of motion.2 Thoroughly tighten all clamps, bolts, and nuts associated with the frame.
2. The end of the fixation pin has been cut close to the clamp's primary fixation bolt. A protective plastic cap has been
placed and glued on the end of the trimmed fixation pin.
After surgery, clean the fixator and limb of any blood or debris, and dry the fixator and limb segment (Figure 1). Cut fixation pins flush with the clamps, and apply protective plastic caps to the cut ends of each pin (Figure 2). With circular or hybrid fixators, cut the ends of the wires about 2 to 3 cm from the fixation bolt, and curl the wire ends
around the frame (Figure 3).
3. The ends of the wires in this circular fixator are curled around the ring to prevent damage from sharp ends.