What is a fibrocartilaginous embolism?
A fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) occurs when fibrocartilage from a nearby intervertebral disc makes its way into the bloodstream. This fibrocartilage then lodges in a blood vessel to the spine, blocking blood flow. When the spinal cord does not have a constant blood supply, it cannot function, causing the symptoms of weakness or inability to use the limbs. Depending on where the injury occurs, an FCE can affect all four limbs, just the hind limbs, or the limbs on one side of the body. The onset is usually fast with initial pain that resolves.
What are clinical signs of a fibrocartilaginous embolism?
Clinical signs of a fibrocartilaginous embolism range from very mild to complete paralysis. There is usually an acute onset of symptoms with a sudden change in function. Signs can include loss of movement in the limbs, dragging or scuffing of the toes, stumbling or falling, impaired coordination, and decreased sensation.
How is a fibrocartilaginous embolism diagnosed?
An MRI is used to definitively diagnose a fibrocartilaginous embolism and to rule out other potential sources of neurological decline. Anesthesia is required for an MRI.
How do we treat fibrocartilaginous embolisms?
The spinal cord cannot repair areas that have been damaged, but it has a great ability to reroute around areas of damage through a process called neuroplasticity. Through this process, the spinal cord is able to use healthy areas to do the function of damaged areas.
During rehab, we utilize electrotherapy, laser therapy, ultrasound therapy, and pain medications to get pain under control. We then focus on relaxing the muscles surrounding the spine and doing exercises to improve sensation and proprioception (the awareness of where the limbs are in space). A major component of our rehab after an fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE) is aimed at improving transitions and doing gait retraining
We work on positional balance exercises and then progress into dynamic movements. We focus on retraining transitions and taking appropriate steps. Fine tuning those movements are very important. Lastly, we focus on rebuilding the stabilizers to the spine to prevent future injuries.
With these types of injuries, if therapies are started immediately the prognosis of regaining function is higher than those that have a delay from onset of injury to treatments. In our first appointment, we are teaching guardians a lot of techniques to help their pet at home. You will have a clear picture of how to care for your dog at home including how to care for the bladder, how to maneuver your pet, how to perform their home exercise program, and what assistive devices are needed to get your pet walking again. At Walking Paws Rehab you will have a support team guiding you through your dog’s recovery to walking normal again.