Postoperative complications associated with external skeletal fixators in cats

Beever L, Giles K, Meeson R. J Feline Med Surg. 2017 Jul; 19 (7): 727-736.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to quantify complications associated with external skeletal fixators (ESFs) in cats and to identify potential risk factors.

METHODS: A retrospective review of medical records and radiographs following ESF placement was performed.

RESULTS: Case records of 140 cats were reviewed; fixator-associated complications (FACs) occurred in 19% of cats. The region of ESF placement was significantly associated with complication development. Complications developed most frequently in the femur (50%), tarsus (35%) and radius/ulna (33%). Superficial pin tract infection (SPTI) and implant failure accounted for 45% and 41% of all FACs, respectively. SPTI occurred more frequently in the femur, humerus and tibia, with implant failure more frequent in the tarsus. No association between breed, age, sex, weight, fracture type (open vs closed), ESF classification, number of pins per bone segment, degree of fracture load sharing, and the incidence or type of FAC was identified. No association between region of placement, breed, age, sex, weight, fracture type (open vs closed), ESF classification, number of pins per bone segment, fracture load sharing and the time to complication development was identified.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Complication development is not uncommon in cats following ESF placement. The higher complication rate in the femur, tarsus and radius/ulna should be considered when reviewing options for fracture management. However, cats appear to have a lower rate of pin tract infections than dogs.