Compression Wraps for Horses

Over the years, veterinarians have developed a variety of modifications for equine lower-limb compression bandages, aiming to maintain better, even pressure under the wraps. But are some techniques more effective than others? Not necessarily, recent study results suggest.

“A compression bandage is used any time there is the need to keep pressure on a site to minimize edema (fluid swelling) formation, such as following surgery or a wound,” said Warren Beard, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a professor and equine surgeon at Kansas State University’s (K-State) College of Veterinary Medicine, in Manhattan.

He and colleagues from K-State recently examined how bandaging technique influences sub-bandage pressure over three commonly wrapped sites: the cannon bone area, the carpus (knee), and the tarsus (hock). They also evaluated whether walking impacted pressure under the carpal and tarsal bandages.

They evaluated six bandage types:

  • Double-layer;
  • Distal limb compression;
  • Inner sanctum (rolled gauze secured with elastic tape in the indentations between the splint bones and flexor tendons) used with distal limb compression;
  • Carpal compression;
  • Adhesive elastic carpal (typically used to cover and protect incisions once inflammation subsides); and
  • Tarsal compression.
Compression Wraps for Horses

The team applied each bandage to eight healthy adult horses from K-State’s teaching herd and measured sub-bandage pressure in at least two locations under each wrap using a compression measurement system. The team recorded measurements three times to arrive at an average pressure.

They found that inner sanctum and double-layer bandages did not increase sub-bandage pressure and seemed to provide no added benefit over the standard compression bandage. They also found that walking decreased pressure somewhat in carpal bandages and decreased it dramatically in tarsal bandages. However, walking had no effect on the adhesive elastic carpal bandage.

As such, Beard and colleagues concluded that most modifications made to the traditional distal limb compression bandages did not appear to improve their efficacy.

They did note that “carpal elastic bandages maintain sub‐bandage pressures during ambulation and may be more appropriate for long-term bandaging in ambulating horses.”

The study, “Effect of bandaging techniques on sub-bandage pressures in the equine distal limb, carpus, and tarsus,” was published in Veterinary Surgery.