Fractured Ribs in Foals

Surgically repairing or stabilizing fractured ribs in a newborn foal can reduce the risk of further complications such as puncturing a vital organ, say Robert Hunt, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, and Fairfield Bain, DVM, MBA, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVP, ACVECC. Th

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Surgically repairing or stabilizing fractured ribs in a newborn foal can reduce the risk of further complications such as puncturing a vital organ, say Robert Hunt, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, and Fairfield Bain, DVM, MBA, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVP, ACVECC. The practitioners explained two methods of repair on Oct. 20, 2005, at the Hagyard Bluegrass Equine Symposium in Lexington, Ky.


Hunt said foals often sustain greenstick fractures while coming through the birth canal as the foal’s ribcage folds in on itself. Once through the canal, the ribcage reverts to its normal position. “These typically involve the left side and involve the third through sixth ribs,” Hunt said.


“In many cases following a dystocia (difficult birth), the foal’s ribs sustain a greenstick fracture, but they are initially not displaced,” Bain explained. Over-aggressiveness by a vet or caretaker who rushes to pull a foal before the birth canal is properly dilated can also cause fractures. Ribs can then be displaced while the foal is stumbling to his feet.


Palpating the fractured rib can be difficult, said Bain. Often the fracture is not found on the first exam because it is not displaced yet. But ultrasound can detect fractures and small fragments of bone in the chest cavity

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Written by:

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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