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Fracture of the Humerus in Cats

By: Dr. David Diamond

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Fractures of the humerus (upper arm bone) are not frequently seen in veterinary medicine. These fractures are usually the result of major trauma, but can be caused by disease of the bone itself.

Generally, humeral fractures cause acute, non-weight bearing lameness of affected fore leg. These fractures can occur in an immature bone (one that has not finished growing) or in a mature one, can be "open" (skin wound with bone exposed) or "closed" fractures, and can be "simple" or "comminuted" (multiple bone fragments).

Depending on the nature of the fracture and the age of the animal, different methods of repair may be indicated for each situation.

Humeral fractures can have serious complications if not repaired or if the repair fails.

What to Watch For

  • Lameness
  • Abnormally positioned leg
  • Pain or inability to move

    Diagnosis

    A thorough physical examination and medical history are important in any illness or injury. Based on the results of the physical examination, additional tests may be recommended. No laboratory tests are required to make the diagnosis.

  • Chest radiographs
  • Complete orthopedic examination
  • Radiographs of the affected leg

    Treatment

    Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the trauma. Treatment recommendations may include:

  • Emergency care for concurrent problems caused by the trauma

  • Treatment of concurrent soft-tissue injuries

  • In general, anesthesia and surgical stabilization of the bone fragments are indicated for most humeral fractures

  • The humerus cannot be adequately immobilized in a cast or splint to allow proper healing

  • Injectable analgesics (pain medications) are given to the animal while being treated in the hospital and may be continued orally once discharged from the hospital.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Bring the animal to the veterinarian as soon as possible after any trauma for immediate attention. Try to prevent your pet from walking or moving too much. Prompt veterinary treatment is recommended. Do not attempt to place a splint or bandage on the leg unless profuse bleeding is occurring.

    After surgical repair of the fracture, the animal will be kept restricted from activity for several weeks and the skin incision will be monitored while healing. A recheck with your veterinarian will occur in several weeks to evaluate how the bone is healing (with new radiographs), to monitor the animal's progress, and to make sure it is safe to increase the animal's activity level.

    Many traumatic events are true accidents and thus unavoidable. Avoid the chance for motor vehicle trauma by keeping your cat indoors.

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