Objectives: To describe placement of hinged transarticular external fixation (HTEF) frames and evaluate their ability to protect the primary repair of unstable joints while allowing joint mobility in dogs and cats.
Design: Retrospective study.
Animals: 8 cats and 6 dogs.
Procedure: HTEF frames were composed of metal or epoxy connecting rods and a hinge. Measurements of range of motion of affected and contralateral joints and radiographs were made after fixator application and removal.
Results: 9 animals (4 cats and 5 dogs) had tarsal and 5 (4 cats and 1 dog) had stifle joint injuries. Treatment duration ranged from 45 to 100 days (median, 57 days). Ranges of motion in affected stifle and tarsal joints were 57% and 72% of control while HTEF was in place and 79% and 84% of control after frame removal. Complications were encountered in 3 cats and 2 dogs and included breakage of pins and connecting rods, hinge loosening, and failure at the hinge-epoxy interface.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: HTEF in animals with traumatic joint instability provided adjunctive joint stabilization during healing and protection of the primary repair and maintained joint motion during healing, resulting in early weight bearing of the affected limb.