Veterinary Neurology of the Chesapeake | Jay McDonnell, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM | Annapolis & Towson, MD


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Diamond's Facets: Age Is Just A Number

Her Story As Told By Her Owner & Dr. McDonnell


Diamond actually belongs to Rose's son, but it's easy to see how much Rose loves the 13-year-old Pitt Bull. When Dr. McDonnell diagnosed Diamond as having a ruptured disk that was causing compression on the spinal cord, Rose never hesitated: Diamond would have the ventral slot decompressive surgery to repair the damage.


Dr. McDonnell told me, 'You'll get the same dog back after the surgery that you beforehand,'" explains Rose. "She was fine before the injury and we just wanted Diamond back. Diamond had the MRI on Friday, Dr. McDonnell operated on Monday, and we saw improvement within a week!"


Dr. McDonnell: "Diamond had quite a medical history—she'd had parvo, ear problems, skin tags on her eyes that had to be removed, a tumor in her spleen, and she'd broke her hip when she was hit by a vehicle—but she'd recovered well in all instances and was actually in good shape. I knew that the surgery would provide a good outcome. It was so gratifying that her family never hesitated: Diamond needed the surgery and she would have it."


A ruptured disc in the neck or ventral slot can lead to paresis or weakness of the hind limbs, or even complete paralysis. In Diamond's case, she'd had a prior episode of being unable to walk, so it was likely if the situation wasn't addressed surgically, that she would face paralysis in the future. The MRI enabled Dr. McDonnell to determine the disk spaces affected so that a surgical plan could be created.


Ventral slot decompression is done through an an approach to the underside of the neck, as this allows access to the ventral or underside of the cervical vertebral bodies. The position of the ruptured disk is shown in the three MRI scan images below.


Post-op, as is the case with all ventral slot decompressive surgeries, Diamond required pain management, so was cared for at AAVEC for two days, then released. "I advised Rose that Diamond should be kept separate from their other dog (and Diamond's litter mate), Deke, for two weeks, and that she would have to monitored for six months to ensure she doesn't over-exert herself.


"I hope others will learn from this that age is just a number. Patients are never too old to benefit from surgery, if otherwise everything else is good."


Rose adds, "Diamond is doing so well; we're hoping it will continue. For a Christmas present, I think we'll let her jump up on the sofa!"


Above: Thanks to her surgery, Diamond's able to once again enjoy one of her favorite pasttimes: a good back scratch on the driveway.


Figure 1: Sagittal T2-weighted image of Diamond including her brain (B on the left), cervical spinal cord (CSC) and thoracic spinal cord (TSC). Most of the intervertebral disks are degenerate and dehydrated. The disk at the C4-5 intervertebral space is ruptured and compresses the spinal cord (arrow).


Figure 2: Heavily T2-weighted “myelo” view that helps identify the spinal fluid within the brain (asterisk) and subarachnoid CSF columns.


Figure 3: Cross-sectionT2-weighted image of the C4-5 disk space showing the ruptured disk (blue arrow) compressing the spinal cord within the spinal canal.


Board Certified Veterinary Neurologist Dr. Jay McDonnell | Annapolis & Towson, MD