Any lameness can be tough for a veterinarian to treat and resolve, but pastern joint lameness caused by osteoarthritis can be especially problematic. Stephanie Caston, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, discussed possible options for managing pastern osteoarthritis at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md. Chemical joint fusion using ethyl alcohol was one treatment she and colleagues examined in a recent study.

Ethyl Alcohol Joint Fusion

A radiograph of a pastern joint with a needle (circled) in place in preparation for an ethyl alcohol joint injection.

In low-motion joints, sometimes the solution to lameness troubles is physiologic fusion (fixation of the joint so it can’t move) called ankylosis, to relieve pain and discomfort. Ankylosis occurs naturally in some joints, but Caston noted that ongoing joint disease in itself is unlikely to result in complete ankylosis. Typically, veterinarians manage such low-motion joints using arthrodesis (surgical fusion) with a variety of approaches ranging from lag screws and plates to drilling away the cartilage to laser surgery or chemical injections with irritating substances (to induce fusion). Many of these orthopedic solutions are expensive and fraught with long recovery periods.

Caston presented an alternative chemical approach to surgical arthrodesis, injecting sterilized 75% ethyl alcohol (Everclear grain alcohol) into an osteoarthritis-a