Injecting anesthetic in a slightly different location than used with a traditional nerve block technique could be a more effective approach to pinpointing the cause of equine foot pain during lameness exams, noted a past-president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

Marvin Beeman, DVM, of the Littleton Equine Medical Center, in Colorado, renowned performance horse practitioner, described this approach at the organization’s 2013 convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn. He presented during a session consisting of past-presidents sharing practice tips from their many years of clinical experience.

Beeman reminded his audience that the palmar digital nerve (PDN) block is the most common regional anesthetic block used to diagnose lameness in the horse. Usually, veterinarians place this block near the ungual (collateral) cartilages on the sides of the pastern, but Beeman said he prefers to place the needle lower, on the midline between the bulbs of the heel. He does this while holding the horse’s front leg held between his knees or bracing the hind limb on his thigh and extending the limb as far back as possible.

Beeman explained that inserting and infusing the anesthetic as low as possible on the foot offers several benefits:

  • The horse only needs one needle stick between the heel bulbs rather than two sticks (one on either side of the lower pastern);
  • Anesthetic agents do not migrate up or down the limb as much as the traditional approach (which can anesthetize lesions above the front of the coronary band and in the pastern region), particularly if the practitioner places a thumb over th