arthroscopic osteochondral fragment removal in horses

Researchers have good news for owners selling or managing horses with ostoechondral fragments (OCF) in the hock: A recent study has confirmed that arthroscopic osteochondral fragment removal in horses’ tarsocrural joints via arthroscopy is efficient, quick, and has few postoperative complications.

Researchers from Milton Equine Hospital, in Campbellville, Ontario, and the University of California, Davis, evaluated the surgical outcomes when veterinarians used a technique that involves resecting the proximal intertarsal joint capsule to expose fragments while using an endoscope to visualize their work inside the horse’s joint.

This minimally invasive method does not require the surgeon to open the joint with a scalpel to find and remove the chips, which can be associated with a greater likelihood of postoperative complications, said Pablo Espinosa-Mur, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, of UC Davis.

“The technique described was very efficient and fast to remove these fragments and very low postoperative complications were seen,” he said.

The team evaluated medical records from 27 horses with radiographic evidence of OCF in the hock’s tarsocrural joint. Veterinarians successfully removed all fragments following joint capsule resection. They noted that three horses experienced moderate intra-articular (in the joint) bleeding when veterinarians resected the joint capsule, and one horse developed postoperative swelling that subsided with medical management, including bandaging, rest, and phenylbutazone.

The team collected long-term follow-up information on 16 horses, all of which had started training or returned to their athletic careers.

Espinosa-Mur said these results could have a positive impact for owners selling horses with OCF on prepurchase radiographs.

“If no fragments are left behind in the proximal intertarsal joint, the sale and resale value of their horses will definitely improve,” he said.

Although this study did not examine OCF’s association with performance, Espinosa-Mur said OCF-free joints, including joints from which fragments have been removed, would better support athletic activity than those with existing fragments.

The study, “Arthroscopic removal of osteochondral fragments in the dorsal pouch of the proximal intertarsal joint in 29 horses,” was published in Veterinary Surgery.