Surgical Repair of Hock Fractures in Sport Horses Successful

Researchers say a screw fixation procedure can help sport horses return to function after a central tarsus fracture.

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While veterinarians often recommend conservative treatment before surgery for many equine health problems, the healing of a central hock (or tarsus) fracture isn’t something you want to just wait around for. Swiss researchers have learned that prompt surgery—particularly screw fixation—is the best way to get your sport horse sound and back to work as soon as possible.

“Once a central tarsal bone fracture is diagnosed, lag screw osteosynthesis (bone repair using screws) is associated with a very good prognosis,” said Jan Kuemmerle, DrMedVet, Dipl. ECVS, of the Equine Hospital at the University of Zurich’s Vetsuisse Faculty.

“However, it is important that this is performed in a hospital with excellent intraoperative diagnostic imaging capabilities—computed tomography (CT) or fluoroscopy (real-time radiography)—to allow exact placement of the screw,” he added.

Like racehorses with tarsal bone fractures, affected sport horses typically present with sudden, acute lameness that turns into mild to moderate lameness after a couple of weeks. And in both groups of horses, untreated fractures can lead to arthritic changes in the adjacent joints that can cause permanent damage. So rapid diagnosis and surgery are vital to the horse’s athletic future

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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