Brachial Plexus Tumor

Last Modified: February 24, 2008

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My 10-year-old Basset hound has been having some problems with lameness in her left front leg for about 3 weeks. An x-ray of the leg showed no bony changes or evidence of arthritis or tumors. After some testing, my vet is inclined to think she has a brachial plexus tumor, as does the surgeon with whom he consulted. Is there anything at all that can be done for this condition?

Answer

Lili Duda, VMD, Section Editor of the OncoLink Veterinary Oncology Menu, responds:

The first step in treating any potential tumor is to first locate the tumor, and second to obtain a biopsy sample to determine the specific tumor type. For presumptive brachial plexus tumors, MRI is the imaging modality of choice, as it can provide excellent soft tissue detail and help guide the surgeon to either do a biopsy or remove the tumor. A CT scan is also a good imaging choice if MRI is not available.

For tumors of the brachial plexus, complete surgical removal requires amputation of the foreleg. Depending on the type and aggressiveness of the tumor, complete surgical removal can provide long term control. If the surgical removal was not complete, radiation therapy can be effective in control of residual tumor.

For tumors that are inoperable (for whatever reason), radiation therapy can provide significant alleviation of symptoms such as pain. Conservative management consists of aggressive pain management, which includes combining a variety of pain medications that work through different pathways to help keep the dog as comfortable as possible.