ISSN 2398-2969      

Limb amputation

Clapis

Introduction

  • Complete or partial surgical removal of a limb which is too diseased or damaged for treatment by other means.

Print off the Owner Factsheets Caring for your rabbit following limb amputation and Caring for your rabbit before and after surgery to give to your clients.

Uses

  • Amputation of a limb may be necessary in severely comminuted fracture Limb fracture, extensive soft tissue damage, chronic osteomyelitis Osteomyelitis, joint infection after failed fracture repair, or where the cost of repairing the leg and aftercare is prohibitive for the owner.
  • The most common presentation is long-standing neglected fractures, which are severely contaminated. Usually this will be a distal tibial fracture and the leg will be 'swinging' with gross soft tissue contamination. There is often underlying osteoporosis, which can complicate fracture repair.

Advantages

  • Amputation is a good salvage option where the owner is considering euthanasia due to prohibitive cost.
  • Rabbits readily adapt to the three-legged state so this is definitely an option where money is a concern and the owner is considering euthanasia, especially in young rabbits.
  • Amputation is a relatively quick procedure and there is little surgical risk provided the animal is well stabilized prior to surgery.
  • Amputation is a cheaper alternative to limb repair because it reduces surgery time and removes the need for repeated check-ups, radiographs and dressing changes.
  • Even hindlimb amputation is well tolerated by many rabbits.

Disadvantages

  • Surgery time is generally shorter than complex fracture repair.
  • The main surgical risk involved is hemorrhage from the femoral artery.
  • Ensure there is no arthritis, trauma or disease, eg pododermatitis, in the contralateral limb such that the rabbit is unable to tolerate the additional weight load.
  • If amputating a hindlimb, the ear on the side of the amputation must be routinely cleaned as the rabbit will be unable to clean/groom on that side without the foot.
  • Possibility of wound infection, trauma and/or abrasion at the site of amputation.
  • Post-surgical contamination of single remaining hindlimb by urine/feces.

Requirements

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Preparation

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Procedure

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Aftercare

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Outcomes

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Prognosis

  • Most rabbits have an excellent recovery rate after amputation and adapt readily to the three-legged state.

Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Garcia-Pertierra S, Ryan J, Richardson J et al (2020) Presentation, treatment and outcome of long-bone fractures in pet rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). J Small Anim Pract 61 (1), 46-50 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Harcourt-Brown F & Chitty J (2013) BSAVA Manual of Rabbit Surgery, Dentistry and Imaging. BSAVA, UK. 
  • Slatter D H (2003) Textbook of Small Animal Surgery. 3rd edn. W B Saunders, USA
  • Bojrab J, Waldron D R & Toombs J P (1998) Eds. Current Techniques in Small Animal Surgery. 5th edn. Teton NewMedia, USA.
  • Hillyer E V & Queensberry K E (1997) Eds. Ferrets, Rabbits and Rodents - Clinical Medicine and Surgery. Saunders, USA.

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