Many fractures once deemed inoperable can now be surgically repaired successfully, but management approaches during the critical post-fracture window can have a major impact on outcomes. One equine practitioner reported that veterinarians must be prepared with the appropriate knowledge and equipment to help save these patients’ lives.

Scott Palmer, VMD, Dipl. ABVP, owner and hospital director of the New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg, reviewed equine fracture stabilization techniques at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

"Successful management of unstable fractures in the field involves a combination of clinical assessment, appropriate medical treatment, stabilization of the fracture, and careful and prompt transportation to a facility equipped for fracture repair," Palmer said, noting that the majority of equine limb fractures cannot be treated in the field.

Fracture Locations and Prognoses

Palmer reviewed the variety of fracture classifications and general prognoses for each. In all cases, he said, horses with closed fractures have better prognoses than do open ones (in which bone has penetrated skin), and simple fractures carry better prognoses than do comminuted fractures (having multiple fractures in the same bone). In most cases nondisplaced fractures pose better prognoses than do displaced ones. That said, prognoses are also dependent on fracture location.

Level 1 Fractures—Level 1 fractures are located in or below the fetlock joint. Common Level 1 injuries include fractures of the phalanges (which include the lo