Bone Chips in Horses: Why, Where, and What to Do

Bone chips can be a proper pain in the joint; learn where and why they happen and when they need to be removed.

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Bone Chips in Horses: Why, Where, and What to Do
Some horses require arthroscopic surgery for bone chip removal. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Small, but mighty, bone chips can be a proper pain in the joint

It wasn’t so long ago that mention of a broken-this or a shattered-that meant a horse’s demise. But with time, research, and improved imaging technology, veterinarians have determined that some fractures aren’t so terrible. One such example is a classic chip fracture.

Chips, short for bone chips, are technically osteochondral fragments—pieces of cartilage-covered bone (“osteo” for bone and “chondral” for cartilage) that have “chipped” off, often times into a joint.

“Osteochondral ‘chip’ fragments are common in athletic horses, especially racehorses,” says Robert J. Hunt, DVM, MSc, Dipl. AVCS, surgeon at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, in Lexington, Kentucky. “With proper management, chips do not have to be either the career- or life-threatening problem that other types of fractures are

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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