Pastern Bone Damage in Sport Horses: Conservative Treatment vs. Surgery

While there was no significant difference in outcome between patients treated conservatively compared to surgically, the overall prognosis for long pastern bone damage in sport horses remains guarded, researchers said.
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pastern bone damage in sport horses
The MRI findings the team considered osseous trauma included a range of long-pastern-bone issues, from subchondral bone trauma to sagittal groove fracture. This could explain the varied treatment response, they said. | Photo: iStock

Veterinarians have two options when faced with bone damage—technically called osseous trauma—of the long pastern bone in horses’ fetlocks: conservative treatment (rest and controlled exercise) or surgery (placing a screw to stabilize the bone and promote healing). But which is more effective? A team of researchers in the U.K. sought to find out.

Giulia Lipreri, DVM, an equine surgery resident at the University of Liverpool’s Leahurst Equine Hospital, and colleagues reviewed the records of 21 sport horses diagnosed with osseous trauma via an MRI exam of the fetlock region. If needed, they followed up on cases with a telephone questionnaire to establish their present soundness and exercise levels.

Twelve horses (nine with forelimb injuries and three with hind-limb trauma) received conservative management, which included four to six weeks of stall rest, hand-walking for a month, and three to six months of paddock turnout

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Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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