Big strides made in fracture repair in horses, says specialist

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An x-ray showing an extensive fracture repair in a horse
An x-ray showing an extensive fracture repair in a horse.

Locking compression plates have proved to be a game-changer in the repair of equine fractures, a specialist in the field says.

They are among the technological advances and improvements in surgical procedures that have improved the prospects of horses with fractures significantly.

Equine surgeon Dr Benjamin Ahern will be speaking this month at the Australian Veterinary Association Annual Conference about new techniques used to treat equine fractures.

“Horses are large powerful creatures that can cause remarkable damage to themselves and this can make fracture repair and management difficult,” he said.

“However, over the past 20 to 30 years, we’ve made substantial progress in the way we treat and manage fractures.

“Owners who find themselves in the unfortunate position of having a horse with a fracture can now explore surgical options, giving the animal a greater chance of surviving the injury.”

Ahern outlined several key developments that have greatly increased the odds of a horse’s survival after a fracture.

“There has been remarkable progress in the development of techniques to repair some fractures standing up – so without the need for general anaesthesia. We’ve also seen significant improvements in hardware availability.

An X-ray of the fractured pictured above before its repair.
An X-ray of the fracture pictured above before its surgical repair.

“In particular, locking compression plates (LCPs) have been a game changer because they effectively change how the repair occurs and are roughly four times stronger than the now out of date dynamic compression plates.

“Stability is paramount in any repair and LCPs with their improved strength translate to improved stability.”

Ahern also stresses the important role that post-surgery infections play in a horse being able to survive a fracture. He says that for equine surgeons, it is disheartening to repair a fracture and then see an infection develop that results in the loss of the patient.

“Preventing a closed fracture from becoming open and minimally invasive repair techniques are hugely important to prevent infections and ensuring the horse’s survival.

“Implants now have coatings and structural changes to help prevent bacterial infections. These days we also see a better response to treatment thanks to our ability to deliver a high concentration of antibiotics to the fracture site as opposed to the whole body.

“The advances we’ve had in equine surgery combined with instant communication channels, including email and text messages, means it’s extremely easy and essential to get an experienced opinion prior to simply euthanasing a horse with a fracture.,” he said.

A CT scan of the fracture pictured in the X-rays above before its repair.
A CT scan of the fracture pictured in the X-ray above before its repair.

2 thoughts on “Big strides made in fracture repair in horses, says specialist

  • May 17, 2016 at 2:32 am
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    I really enjoyed the article on compression plates and am curious about any breakthrus in laminitis. Also the article on genetic research concerning fractures was encouraging.

    Reply
  • May 17, 2016 at 12:52 pm
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    With recovery in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and antibiotic therapy could help expedite the recovery process, any thoughts on this?

    Reply

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