The objective of this study was to develop a surgical technique for sensory denervation of the canine elbow joint and to assess the effects of denervation on limb function in normal dogs. Twenty cadavers (40 elbows) were used to characterize innervation and design the surgical protocol which was tested in 13 cadavers (26 normal elbows). The effect of denervation on limb function was assessed in vivo in four dogs with the elbow randomly selected for the procedure. Primary outcome measures were static bodyweight distribution and distal limb mechanical sensory thresholds; secondary outcome measures were subjectively scored lameness, neurological function and pain on manipulation. Histology was performed on all resected tissues to determine whether nerves had been resected.
Denervation was achieved by separate medial and lateral surgical approaches. In testing the developed surgical protocol, 111/130 resected samples contained nerve tissue in the healthy cadaveric elbows and 18/20 in the in vivo study. Limb function and sensation were not altered by elbow joint denervation. The protocol developed for denervation of the canine elbow appears feasible and does not result in any sensory or motor deficits of the forelimb.