Fibrocartilagenous Embolus (FCE)
What is FCE?
- The sudden obstruction of the blood supply to the spinal cord with fibrocartilage from an intervertebral disc.
- It is the functional equivalent of a stroke, except that it occurs in the spinal cord, rather than the brain.
The Typical Patient:
- Usually affects large breed dogs, although there are some reports that schnauzers are also predisposed.
- Typically affects young adult dogs, between the ages of 3-6 years.
- Sudden onset paralysis, often associated with exercise.
- Some people report that their dog yelps initially, but after that initial pain, FCE is not painful.
- Signs depend on the location of the embolus. One or more limbs can be affected and can range in severity from change in gait to complete paralysis.
- Signs tend to be asymmetrical, meaning that the left side and right side of the body are not affected equally.
- Signs develop over minutes to hours and usually stabilize (stop getting worse) within 12-24 hours. If pain is present at onset, it usually subsides within 12-24 hours.
- The goal of rehabilitation is to achieve a quicker and more complete recovery.
- Exercises focus on maintaining muscle tone and joint mobility and improving proprioception (body awareness).
- Depends on location and severity
- The following signs are associated with a poorer prognosis: loss of muscle tone, loss of spinal reflexes, and loss of deep pain perception.
- Most dogs show some improvement within 10 days. Some dogs can continue to improve over the course of a few months.