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Companion Animal Practice
External coaptation in small animal practice
  1. James Grierson

    James Grierson graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 1998. He worked in general practice for two-anda- half years before completing an internship at Davies Veterinary Specialists and a residency in small animal surgery at the Royal Veterinary College. He is currently a lecturer in small animal orthopaedic surgery at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals. He holds RCVS certificates in veterinary radiology and small animal surgery, and the European diploma in small animal surgery. He is a recognised European specialist in small animal surgery.


EXTERNAL coaptation is defined as the use of casts and bandages to help stabilise fractures. Although frequently used, it does not always provide the best option for an early return to function, and owners must be aware of its limitations and associated complications. Prolonged immobilisation of fractured bones and long-term inactivity may leave the tissues shrivelled, bones thinned, muscles weakened and joints permanently stiff. Following cast removal, animals usually have to undergo prolonged rehabilitation to restore strength and flexibility to tight, weakened muscles and increase the range of motion of stiff joints. However, there are times (often due to financial constraints) when limbs need to be cast, so a good understanding of external coaptation will aid in the successful management of these cases. This article describes when it is appropriate to use external coaptation and the possible complications that might be encountered, and specifically how to apply casts and bandages.

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