Suspensory Ligament Branch Tears in Racehorses: Surgery and Outcome

Researchers found that treating suspensory ligament branch tears surgically generally yielded a good prognosis and proved superior to noninvasive management. However, they cautioned, surgical intervention is lesion-specific and not applicable to all suspensory branch injuries.
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suspensory ligament branch tears
Suspensory ligament branch injuries are common in equine athletes such as show jumpers, dressage horses, and racehorses. | Photo: iStock

Suspensory ligament branch injuries are common in equine athletes such as show jumpers, dressage horses, and racehorses. While their prognosis in sport horses is fair, in Thoroughbred racehorses it’s poor.

At the 2018 British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 12-15, in Birmingham, U.K., Ian Wright, MA, VetMB, DEO, Dipl. ECVS, HonFRCVS, hospital director of Newmarket Equine Hospital, in Suffolk, U.K., described how to treat these tears surgically to bring racehorses back to function.

The suspensory ligament, which runs down the back of the cannon bone, divides into two branches that attach to the sesamoid bones at the back of the fetlock. Injury to these branches of insertion causes significant wastage in Thoroughbreds, said Wright. Because suspensory ligament branch (SLB) tears heal by scar tissue, horses cannot recreate the structure post-injury. So Wright hypothesized that removing the affected tissue would help these horses heal

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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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