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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