Overview of Comminuted Fractures in Dogs
A comminuted fracture is a splintered or fragmented break in the continuity of bone or cartilage. The fracture site consists of multiple pieces of bone, which can be small or large, grouped together or displaced within the traumatized tissue.
Comminuted fractures are associated with high-energy trauma such as being hit by a car or sustaining a gunshot injury. A lot of force and energy is required to fragment bone, and this energy also affects the surrounding soft tissues. Many comminuted fractures will also be described as open, where a piece of shattered bone pierces through the skin, causing contamination or infection.
There is no breed predisposition, but since vehicular trauma is the most common cause of comminuted fractures, young intact males are more commonly affected.
Most comminuted fractures are considered a severe orthopedic injury, which, unless treated, may lead to loss of limb function and could lead to spread of infection and even death. Many of these fractures are associated with other life threatening injuries.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Comminuted Fractures in Dogs
In many cases, a history of trauma will be obvious, but your veterinarian will question you carefully about any other health problems prior to the accident. Given that most comminuted fractures occur secondary to major trauma, other vital systems will be assessed and stabilized first. After stabilization, additional tests may include:
Treatment of Comminuted Fractures in Dogs
While other life-threatening problems are being addressed, a temporary bandage may be applied to an injured limb. Once stabilized, treatment may include:
Home Care and Prevention
External fixators must have the skin-pin interface cleaned daily where the pins pass through the skin toward the bone. Crusting and discharge is common at this location, but excessive swelling or discharge should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.
In cases of open fracture repair, there will be an incision that needs to be monitored for swelling, redness and discharge. Stitches or staples will need to be removed in 10 to 14 days.
Your pet will need to rest to allow the fracture to heal. This time frame will be less for younger animals (2 to 4 weeks) and longer for older animals (6 to 12 weeks or even more depending on the nature of the fracture).
Comminuted fractures can be difficult to repair and heal, given the damage to the blood supply to the bone and the possibility that bacteria have contaminated or infected the fracture site.
Follow up x-rays will be taken to ensure the fracture is healing and that there are no problems with the implants.
Since most fractures occur secondary to being hit by a car, all dogs should be kept on a leash and adequate fencing provided in a yard.