Reggie – From Three Legs To Four

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At only 14 weeks of age Reggie developed a noticeable problem with his left front leg. Initially he was limping on the leg, but it soon became obvious that the limb wasn’t growing normally and that Reggie’s forearm was becoming very short and bowed compared to the normal side. It was at this stage that Reggie’s own veterinary surgeon referred him to Northwest Surgeons.

Given that Reggie still had much growing to do and that his left front leg was already short and deformed, it was clear that he would not be able to use the limb normally once he was fully grown. There was also a risk that progressive deformity in the forearm would cause secondary damage to his elbow and wrist joints, which might then become painful and function poorly.

We therefore advised a procedure to straighten and lengthen the limb using a device called an external ring fixator, sometimes referred to as an “Ilizarov” fixator after its inventor. This is a rigid adjustable frame that is attached to the bones with pins. It provides support for the bones, but also has an arrangement of linear motors and hinges that allow the frame to be gradually lengthened and the angles in the limb to be manipulated, thus lengthening and straightening the limb.

The bones in Reggie’s forearm were cut and the fixator frame applied to the limb. The limb was then straightened and the frame lengthened by just 1 millimetre each day. Three months later Reggie’s left leg was the same length as his normal one and almost completely straight, enabling us to remove the frame and gradually increase his level of physical activity. By 8 months of age Reggie was exercising normally, with both limbs of equal length.