The public demand for a precise diagnosis and treatment of lameness problems has increased many fold over the past decade. Horse owners, through exposure to state-of-the-art medicine and a multitude of publications, such as The Horse, are increasingly aware of what is possible.
Prior to the mid-1970s, placing a needle in a given horse’s joint was, for the most part, limited to racetrack practice. The actual procedure was thought to carry considerable risk. Although that perception still lingers in some quarters, joint injections for both diagnostic and therapeutic reasons are considered by many veterinarians to be standard procedures.
Intra-articular therapy is common veterinary practice, and the availability of intra-articular medications has increased in both number and quality. The diagnostic benefit of intra-articular anesthesia–blocking an area of the horse in order to determine where the problem might be–is of enormous value as it enhances the ability of the practitioner to provide accurate diagnosis. It is only with an accurate diagnosis that one can give an accurate and, hopefully, useful treatment and prognosis (predicting the future).
The ease and safety of the procedure have been greatly enhanced with more malleable needles, short-acting tranquilizers, and sedatives allowing for improved horse handling, and improved awareness of technique and joint anatomy by the veterinarian
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