Ping, a tiny five-month old male Chihuahua, needed life-saving surgery after suddenly becoming paralysed.
When Ping’s owner, Zoe Cekalla, noticed he was having difficulty walking she took him to her local veterinary practice.
The problem was affecting all four legs and had become progressively worse over the course of a week. Ping's local vet quickly referred him to Hamilton Specialist Referrals' veterinary neurologist who says, “When Ping was first brought in to us he was depressed and couldn’t walk. The weakness had progressed rapidly and was affecting all of his limbs. He also had a head tilt and his eye reflexes were reduced. We knew from these signs the problem was localised to his brain or cervical spinal cord (neck).”
CT and MRI scans showed the cause of Ping’s problems – the bones in his neck had not formed correctly from birth. This led to a region of instability, which resulted in direct pressure on the spinal cord in his neck, leading to the weakness. Our surgeon says, “The technical term is atlantoaxial subluxation, which means the first two bones in the neck were partially dislocated. The second neck bone (the axis) hadn’t formed completely and the area needed stabilising to provide Ping any chance of recovery. However, Ping was so small – he weighed barely a kilogram – and in such a tiny space, traditional orthopaedic implants would be too large to place safely”.
The CT images were used to commission bespoke 3-D printed guides (designed and made by Vet3d) to enable precise placement of tiny 1.0mm diameter screws (see photo). While waiting for the guides, Ping was hospitalised at Hamilton’s in a neck brace with nursing care to keep him comfortable and prevent further damage to his spinal cord. Surgery took place six days later with our neurologist along with surgery specialist, Michael Hamilton, stabilising the unstable region of Ping’s neck using the guided screws and encasing them in bone cement.
Ping made a remarkable recovery and one week later he was able to walk out of the hospital for a pain-free, happy, normal life.
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