The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
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Modified surgery resolves cattle neuromuscular condition 

Farm specialists develop speedy, simplified method of surgery to treat disorder affecting hind limbs. 

A condition that causes debilitation in cattle can be treated with a modified surgical approach developed by experts in farm veterinary medicine. 

The novel method, developed at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, offers a simple, fast alternative treatment for spastic paresis, a neuromuscular disease characterised by spastic contractions of muscles in the hind limbs.  

Modified surgery can allow for speedy treatment on-farm to relieve the condition, which if left untreated can compromise the animal’s welfare through the stress and pain associated with the muscle spasms involved. 

Surgery benefits the animal’s welfare by relieving pain, improving movement, growth and ability to gain weight, and helps avoid economic losses to the farmer. 

Alternative surgery 

Researchers at the Dick Vet Farm Animal Services developed a modified approach to a tenectomy – a procedure in which muscle spasms are remedied by surgically amending two of three tendons of the Achilles tendon. 

The team found that the relevant tendons can be more easily accessed by making an incision closer to the hock – the joint midway down the leg. This allows for a simpler surgery in comparison to conventional tenectomy and neurectomy procedures used in the treatment of spastic paresis. 

Relocating the site of surgery in this way overcomes difficulties associated with the usual practice, such as finding and distinguishing the three tendons of importance in a tenectomy surgery.  

It also reduces the need for specialised electro-stimulation equipment which is sometimes used to differentiate nerves in alternative treatment options such as tibial neurectomies, where the nerve leading to the muscle contractions is cut to prevent further overstimulation.  

This less invasive approach, aided by easily identified surgical landmarks, allows for reduced surgery time in a farm environment, calls for less veterinary expertise, and lowers the cost and risks of anaesthesia.  

This is of particular importance in older, heavier animals where tibial neurectomies are more difficult to perform due to the increased depth of muscle within the surgical site.  

Case study 

Vets demonstrated their method in a bullock in which spastic paresis was affecting a hind limb.  

They carried out surgery to two tendons in the animal’s leg – the medial and lateral tendons of the gastrocnemius muscle – without affecting the third, the superficial digital flexor tendon. 

Their procedure was successful and the animal recovered fully with improved gait and mobility, with the pain involved with spastic contractions resolved. 

Their study was published in Vet Record Case Reports. 

This is a good alternative to traditional tenectomy surgery, and can improve the welfare and performance of cattle with spastic paresis. Tenectomy of the medial and lateral tendon of the gastrocnemius muscle is a useful alternative to a tibial neurectomy, especially in older, larger animals. 

Our method gives vets an option where time constraints in the field may be a concern, with a less invasive procedure with simple-to-identify surgical landmarks.

David McFarlandR(D)SVS Farm Animal Services

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About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

The School comprises:

The Roslin Institute

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

The Roslin Innovation Centre

The Hospital for Small Animals

Equine Veterinary Services

Farm Animal Services

Easter Bush Pathology

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.