AO VET celebrates 50 years of cooperation and innovation

Founded 50 years ago, AO VET has developed into a powerful driver of innovation and cross-pollination within the AO.

31 August 2019

AOVET 50 years

Founded 50 years ago, AO VET has developed into a powerful driver of innovation and cross-pollination within the AO. The challenges that this early group of pioneering surgeons faced were more diverse and nuanced than those that confronted their colleagues working in human medicine. For instance, as a technique, interlocking nailing is much more demanding in animals than humans due to the variety in anatomy.

The animal kingdom presents greater musculoskeletal variation—even within one species. The AO principles had to be adapted to best fit the diverse needs of equine and small animal surgeons. All the developments in techniques and materials. Surgeons, engineers, and manufacturers worked together to help improve the materials, instruments, and quality of implants. They revolutionized fracture management in large and small animals. The AO VET impact continues to this day and is felt across the entire AO community.

The courses AO VET provide at Columbus, Ohio, are a vital educational offering to the veterinary surgery community. As highlighted by Kenneth A Johnson in his recent article, these courses are the longest running annual AO courses offered outside Davos, Switzerland.

Their origins are found in the earliest days of the AO, when, in December 1969, 80 surgeons and 9 veterinary surgeons were brought by Mr. Jim Gerry from North America to Switzerland for the AO basic course offered in Davos. This proved to be an historic occasion, as it laid the foundations for the future suite of AO VET courses, and crucially, it brought together MD surgeons and veterinary surgeons – who trained alongside each other. The Columbus Courses were run by the Continuing Education Department at Ohio State University until 2001, and thereafter were organized by AO North America.

Veterinary surgeons have been an integral part of the AO since its beginning, and to this day play an important role in strengthening cooperation within the broader AO family, and have a special place in driving innovation and development forward. The strict adherence to the AO principles made it possible for the adaptations developed for use in veterinary medicine to later be further developed and applied back in human medicine.

One early example of this is explored in the book Leading a Surgical Revolution: The AO Foundation- Social Entrepreneurs in the Treatment of Bone Trauma. In it, Jean-Pierre Jeannet notes in particular "the experience using 2.0 mm screws for small animal surgery," which went on to be "successfully used in craniomaxillofacial (CMF) surgery."

This kind of cross-pollination has continued to be an essential feature of AO VET's contribution to the AO community. Cranial cruciate ligament tears, for example, are one of the most common causes of lameness in dogs. The treatment of choice is the tibia plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO). The crescentic saw blades developed for this proximal tibial osteotomy procedure can also be used for osteotomy procedures in humans. An example is deformity corrections in humans: There are clinical situations where crescent osteotomies, performed with these saw blades, offer inherent advantages over open or closed wedge osteotomies. They enable large angular corrections while maintaining the limb length and provide good stability due to the large congruent bone contact area. Certain adaptations such as larger crescentic saw blades and appropriate guiding instruments may be necessary though to allow broader use in human treatment.  

This interplay between AO VET and the rest of the AO family can also be found today in events such as the AO Davos Courses. AO Spine Education Commission Chairperson and Course Director for AO Spine Bryan Ashman says "the greatest advantage of meeting with other disciplines is you have a chance to understand how other clinicians solve musculoskeletal problems. I remember my first experience of watching the AO VET course, and there was a presentation on fixing fractured wing bones in eagles, the difficulty of fixation in these tiny, fragile, bones without interfering with the feathers, was just amazing. You don't get that kind of cross-fertilization in any other course that I'm aware of."

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