Studies into humeral intracondylar fissure (HIF) / incomplete ossification of the humeral condyle (IOHC) in Springer Spaniels

Humeral intracondylar fissure (also known as incomplete ossification of the humeral condyle) is a condition in which there is a weakness in the humeral condyle –part of the elbow joint in the forelimb. It is most commonly seen in spaniels, especially Springer Spaniels in the UK. This condition predisposes to fractures (breaks) of the humeral condyle and can also cause lameness in its own right without fracture. However, in some dogs it does not cause clinical signs and so an owner may not know their dog has the condition. There may be a genetic basis to the condition.

Our knowledge of this condition is limited and there remains controversy over what exactly HIF is. For a long time it was thought to be an abnormality of bone development in puppies but more recently we and others have recognised IOHC developing in adult dogs' elbows which have previously been screened as normal.This suggests that HIF is a form of stress or fatigue fracture, at least in some dogs. However, we do not know why these stress fractures happen and why spaniel breeds seem to be predisposed.

At Anderson Moores we have tried to answer some of the questions surrounding HIF. For example, for a long time we had no idea how many seemingly normal Springer Spaniels were affected. In conjunction with the British Veterinary Orthopaedic Association we have investigated the incidence of HIF in a population of 'normal' Springer Spaniels, using CT scans of the elbows.

The results of this study were presented at the British Veterinary Orthopaedic Association's annual Spring meeting in Birmingham, March 2011, and a paper has been published in the journal Veterinary & Comparative Orthopaedics & Traumatology:

Moores AP, Agthe P, Schaafsma IA (2012) Prevalence of incomplete ossification of the humeral condyle and other abnormalities of the elbow in English Springer Spaniels. Vet Comp Orthop Traum

We have also investigated novel surgical approaches to manage HIF and HIF-associated fractures and this data has also been published:

Moores AP, Tivers MS, Grierson J (2014) Clinical assessment of a shaft screw for stabilization of the humeral condyle in dogs. Vet Comp Orthop Traum

Our latest study deals with the fracture risk for dogs diagnosed with this condition as an incidental finding:

Moores AP & Moores AL (2017) The natural history of humeral intracondylar fissure: an observational study of 30 dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice

Studies into HIF are ongoing and further information will be presented here as it becomes available.

If you have a spaniel (or other breed) with confirmed or suspected HIF, our orthopaedic surgeons woud be pleased to help you -talk to your first opinion vet about referral to Anderson Moores. We have a great deal of experience in manging this condition.  We can offer on-site CT scanning (to confirm the presence of HIF and to assess the elbow for other diseases that might be present) along with screw placement across the humeral condyle to strengthen the elbow and reduce lameness. Screw placement is routinely performed with fluoroscopy (video x-ray) which improves accuracy and makes the procedure safer. In some situations arthroscopy (key-hole surgery) of the elbow is also advised.




More information on IOHC and fractures of the humeral condyle can be found here:

In Practice humeral condyle.pdf

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