Pelvic Fractures

Q: My horse was sound when he was turned out one night, and the next morning he was lame in the hind end. It took quite a few diagnostics by my veterinarian before it was determined that he had suffered a slight pelvic fracture. How common is this and what is his prognosis?
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Q:My horse was sound when he was turned out one night, and the next morning he was lame in the hind end. It took quite a few diagnostics by my veterinarian before it was determined that he had suffered a slight pelvic fracture. How common is this and what is his prognosis?


A:Unlike in small animals, pelvic fractures in horses are much less common. A 1989 article in the Equine Veterinary Journal reported on the findings of a retrospective review of 100 horses with pelvic fractures. Some of the findings from that study are reviewed here.

Of the pelvic fractures reviewed in the study, 76% occurred in horses less than four years of age with 64% being in females and 36% being in colts or geldings. Of the 100 horses with pelvic fractures, 53 had a history of observed trauma. “A fall was noted in 43 cases and other traumatic injuries in 10 (such as striking a stall door or starting gate, becoming cast, dystocia, or an accident associated with transportation).” An additional 10 horses (eight Thoroughbreds) had histories of developing acute lameness during racing or training.

Clinical examination findings are generally variable and included asymmetry of the hind end, soft tissue swelling, external or rectal crepitation (crepitation is the “crunching” that can be felt or heard as fractured pieces of bone grate together), asymmetry of the pelvic canal determined by rectal examination, the presence of a hematoma in the pelvic canal as determined by palpation, the presence of unilateral hind leg lameness, and/or gluteal muscle atrophy

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Written by:

Michael A. Ball, DVM, completed an internship in medicine and surgery and an internship in anesthesia at the University of Georgia in 1994, a residency in internal medicine, and graduate work in pharmacology at Cornell University in 1997, and was on staff at Cornell before starting Early Winter Equine Medicine & Surgery located in Ithaca, New York. He was an FEI veterinarian and worked internationally with the United States Equestrian Team. He died in 2014.

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