Objectively Evaluating SI Injuries in Horses

Diagnosing SI injuries in horses remains challenging. One veterinarian recommends practitioners rule out other causes of pain when making a diagnosis and take a systemic approach using all available modalities.
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SI injuries in horses
Veterinarians rely on a combination of clinical examination, diagnostic analgesia (nerve blocks), and imaging to diagnose SI injuries in horses. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Sacroiliac (SI, where the pelvis’ sacrum and ilium unite) pain can cause lameness and poor performance in horses. Veterinarians find SI injuries challenging to diagnose and evaluate, however, due to the region’s anatomy and the joint’s many neighboring structures.

So during the 2018 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 12-15, in Birmingham, U.K., Carolin Gerdes, VetMed, MRCVS, was asked to address the question: How objective can we be when evaluating horses for SI injury? Gerdes is the head of the orthopedics department at Tierklinik Hochmoor, in Germany.

Sacroiliac injuries can be either acute—usually due to trauma—or, more commonly, chronic due to repetitive strain and degenerative changes associated with osteoarthritis. To diagnose these, veterinarians rely on a combination of clinical examination, diagnostic analgesia (nerve blocks), and imaging. Currently, however, we don’t have a repeatable and measurable way to objectively evaluate SI injuries, said Gerdes. She reviewed current diagnostic options to determine what we do know

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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