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A Happy Ending for Harry!
12 February 2017
Harry is a three year old Springer Spaniel who presented to the Soft Tissue Service at Willows back in October because he had been coughing for 2 months. He also had difficulty breathing and was not able to enjoy his long walks anymore. He felt better with the antibiotics prescribed by his usual vet, but his symptoms reoccurred as soon as they were stopped.
Harry was then referred to Willows as it was suspected he had a severe infection of the chest. This was based on chest radiographs and analysis of the fluid that Harry had in his chest - this condition is called pyothorax. Harry was referred to Willows Specialist surgeon Vincent Guerin because pyothorax is a very challenging disease to treat. It requires the most advanced imaging to try to identify the cause of the infection and a team approach to the surgery that is required.
At presentation, Vincent was very impressed by Harry, who was coping very well considering that there was lots of infected fluid in his chest which was compressing his lungs and stopping him from breathing normally.
Harry was anaesthetised shortly after being admitted to perform a CT scan of the chest cavity. The CT scan was interpreted by our Specialist imaging team. It showed a possible abscess close to the heart which could have been the cause of the infection in the chest cavity. It also showed that one lung lobe had twisted and that there was a large amount of fluid in the chest cavity (see scans below).
CT scan showing a normal lung lobe
CT scan showing Harry's twisted lung lobe
CT scan showing Harry's abscess
Harry was taken to theatre urgently and exploration of the chest cavity showed that there were two grass seeds in the small abscess which had been spotted close to the heart on the CT scan. The grass seeds were successfully removed without damaging the heart or the big vessels connected to the heart. The twisted lung lobe, which looked severely infected, was also successfully removed.
Harry had an excellent recovery in our intensive care unit (ICU) thanks to the anaesthesia and dedicated ICU team, who made sure he was very comfortable after surgery. He was discharged 5 days after surgery when the tube placed in his chest to finish draining the infection could be removed. After a few weeks of antibiotics and rest, he was able to go back to his normal life.
Harry was lucky because the cause of the infection (the grass seeds) was identified and removed at surgery. Most commonly, the cause of pyothorax is not identified and there is a risk of recurrence. It is likely that Harry inhaled the grass seeds during a walk in the fields. The grass seeds migrated in the airways (trachea, bronchi), perforated the lungs and caused an abscess and pyothorax in the chest cavity.
Vincent was extremely pleased to have an update more than 10 weeks after surgery to hear that Harry was very active and enjoying his long winter walks again.
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Harry enjoying life again ten weeks after surgery