Buisman, L. L., Alsaaod, M., Bucher, E. et al. 2018. Objective assessment of lameness in cattle after foot surgery. PLoS ONE 13(12), e0209783.

Assessment of lameness in cattle after foot surgery is important to monitor the recovery period, to improve the long-term success and the cows’ welfare. This longitudinal multicenter retrospective study was carried out to evaluate the usefulness of automated tools of weight bearing and gait analysis following foot surgery to support the clinician to monitor lameness in cattle. For this purpose, the effect of involvement of different anatomical structures and the use of different surgery methods on gait parameters of post-operative recovery was assessed. The study consisted of 2 experiments and included cattle with unilateral foot pathologies located in the digital region which needed 1 (experiment 1; n = 30) or 2 (experiment 2; n = 4) surgical interventions. The surgical techniques were debridement, joint lavage, partial resection of bones, tendons or synovial structures, total resection of the sesamoid bone and digit amputation. Two accelerometers (400 Hz; kinematic outcome = stance phase duration; kinetic outcome = foot load and toe-off), a 4-scale weighing platform (difference of mean weight distribution across the limbs; Δweight) and a subjective locomotion score were used to evaluate gait parameters every 3 to 4 days after surgery. A repeated measures ANOVA was used in experiment 1 and a receiver operator characteristic analysis was used to determine the optimal cutoff values in experiment 2. Results showed that the differences across limbs for the pedogram variables of stance phases and peaks of foot load and toe-off, Δweight and the locomotion score were highest if joints or sesamoid bones were involved, suggesting that these cattle were more severely lame compared to cattle with more superficial foot pathologies. There was a significantly lower degree of lameness after surgical debridement and after digit amputation compared to partial and total resection of anatomical structures of the foot. The use of accelerometers and a 4-scale weighing platform represent promising objective tools for post-operative monitoring of lameness and can support the clinician in gait assessment to improve the long-term success of surgical interventions in the area of the foot.

Animal Type