Dr Penny Tisdall

Qualifications: BSc (Vet) BVSc MVetClinStuds FANZCVS

Position/ Specialty: Specialist in Small Animal Surgery and Senior lecturer in Small Animal Surgery at University Of Adelaide

Penny graduated in 1994 and spent 3 years in private practice before starting a residency in Small Animal Surgery at the University of Sydney that was completed in 2000. Since this Penny has been in private referral surgical and specialist practice, and locum surgical practice including positions in Sydney and Brisbane. In 2007 Penny moved to Adelaide and for 7 years ran a private referral surgical consultancy practice and was part practice owner. At the beginning of 2015 Penny joined the University of Adelaide Veterinary School where she hopes to make a contribution to building up the caseload of the companion animal hospital and developing the surgical teaching curriculum.

How do you spend your days off?

Gardening , walking, shopping, general domestic goddess

What is it about External Fixation that you find interesting and that you believe general practitioners would benefit from learning and performing better?

External fixation is a versatile and somewhat technically forgiving method of fracture repair that is relatively affordable to use and carry as inventory in your practice. A sound approach to case selection, planning and an understanding of the principals and the equipment is required to optimise surgical outcomes.

What have you learned from experience that you didn’t learn from a textbook? 

Textbooks are a great way to get information about new procedures but it is always more helpful to see someone with experience perform the technique or even just discuss it with them, as there are often little nuances about procedures that are not covered in textbooks.

Examples include how to best place bone holders to help reduce fractures, techniques to overcome muscle forces etc – working smart rather than hard. If using texts, my advice is always to read a few different approaches rather than just one. Yes, that means you need multiple textbooks and new editions as they come out – but the investment is worth it, in my opinion.

What procedure, technology or medication have you used and realised that there was a better alternative?

The components available for external fixation have evolved a great deal in the last 10 – 15 years. If you are still working with old systems it might be time for an upgrade as the newer components allow use of much simpler external fixation frames.

Tell us about a practical surgical tip that you learned from experience

Always focus on taking good radiographs. In the current age of digital radiographs there are no film costs so if you are not happy with radiographs take more, take oblique views if indicated. I routinely radiograph the whole limb and often the opposite limb. You will sometimes miss other pathology that was not evident on examination but that may change the way you think. If you are worried about costs develop charges that are for a limb series rather than charging for individual plates.

Use foam blocks, doughnuts and wedges in radiology to assist positioning of patients. It is much faster and more convenient then sandbags or tape and safer then holding the patient.

What advice would you give new graduates?

Don’t work too hard and try to enjoy what you do. Once uni is finished keep seeking new information to help you stay at the fore front of recent knowledge, attend courses, read texts and as you gain more practical experience you will understand the information more completely. Join the AVA if you are not already a member. Our profession needs advocates and everyone should be involved.

If you’d like to get hands on External Fixation training from Dr Penny Tisdall take a look at our upcoming External Fixation Workshop running May 8 – 9th, at the University of Adelaide. 

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below!