Locking Plates

January 6, 2016

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Anyone who knows me will know that all aspects of Veterinary medicine and surgery in all species interest me. Since a very young age, I have always been fascinated by all Veterinary work.

While at Donaldson’s we are, in many respects a traditional Veterinary Practice, dealing with Farm animals, Horses and domestic pets, modern Veterinary practice is too wide a field to be an expert in all areas. While retaining a broad base of interest, my real passion is for surgery and especially orthopaedics.

Even within the field of orthopaedics, there are a huge range of conditions and treatment options and there is a constant evolution of new thoughts and ideas.

An interesting new development in veterinary fracture repair is a device called a “locking plate”. We are now using locking plates on a number of our fracture cases and have had some great results.

A traditional bone plate is held in position with screws that are inserted into the bone. The stability of the repair relies on tightening the screw within the bone and squeezing the plate tight against the bone. Although successful for many years, this technique has a number of issues. The repair relies on the strength of the bone and its ability to grip the screw thread and so is less effective if the bone is weak. Bone is living tissue and so squashing a metal plate against it inevitably damages a portion of the bone.

With a locking plate, the plate itself has a thread cut in it so the screw locks into the plate and the strength of the bone is less critical. The plate itself does not need to come into contact with the bone so there is less damage to the bone.

The locking plate and screw structure is stronger than traditional implants so there is less movement at the fracture site following repair and we are finding that animals are much more comfortable and use the leg much more readily than we would anticipate with a traditional repair.

The style of locking plate that we are using is called a “string-of-pearls” plate – for obvious reasons when you look at the shape of the plate.

While no one technique will ever be appropriate for every injury, being trained in the use of locking plates and having a range of implants available, I envisage many of my orthopaedic patients receiving locking plates in 2016.


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