As a palliative for lameness when confined to the foot, one would imagine that the plantar operation would be all sufficient. There are operators, however, who state that the results following section of the median nerve have been such as to cause them to entirely abandon the lower operation in its favour. If only for that reason a brief mention of the operation must be made here.
The operation was first performed in this country in October, 1895, the subject being one of the out-patients at the Royal Veterinary College Free Clinique.
For five or six years following this date Professor Hobday performed the operation some several hundred times, and was certainly instrumental in bringing the operation into prominence. Though so recently introduced here, it appears to have been practised for several years on the Continent, originating in Germany as early as 1867. In that country a first public account of it was published in 1885 by Professor Peters of Berlin, while in France it was introduced by Pellerin in 1892. In this operation a portion of the median nerve is excised on the inside of the elbow-joint just below the internal condyle of the humerus. Here the nerve runs behind the artery, then crosses it, and descends in a slightly forward direction behind the ridge formed by the radius.
The position of the limb most suitable for the operation is exactly that we have described as most convenient for the plantar excision. The animal is cast, preferably anaesthetized, and the limb removed from the hobbles, and held as far forward as is possible by an assistant with the side-line.
Professor Hobday's description of the operation is as follows:
'A bold incision is made through the skin and aponcurotic portion of the pectoralis transversus and panniculus muscles, about 1 to 3 inches (depending on the size of the horse) below the internal condyle of the humerus, and immediately behind the ridge formed by the radius. This latter, and the nerve which can be felt passing over the elbow-joint, form the chief landmarks. The haemorrhage which ensues is principally venous, and is easily controlled by the artery forceps. In some cases I have found it of advantage to put on a tourniquet below the seat of operation, but this is not always advisable, as it distends the radial artery. We now have exposed to view the glistening white fascia of the arm, which must be incised cautiously for about an inch. This will reveal the median nerve itself situated upon the red fibres of the flexor metacarpi internus muscle. If not fortunate enough to have cut immediately over the nerve, it can be readily felt with the finger between the belly of the flexor muscle and the radius.'[A]
[Footnote A: Journal of Comparative Pathology and Therapeutics, vol. ix., p. 181.]
The nerve exposed, the remainder of the operation is exactly as that described in removing the portion of the nerve in the plantar operation. The wound is sutured and suitably dressed, and a fair amount of exercise afterwards allowed the patient.