BEN­E­FITS OF FRAG­MENT RE­MOVAL STUD­IED

EQUUS - - Eq Medical Front -

A new study casts doubt on the ben­e­fits of a type of ortho­pe­dic surgery com­monly per­formed on trot­ting horses.

Many trot­ters un­dergo a sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure to re­move os­si­fied car­ti­lage frag­ments from the up­per end of the long pastern bone, within the fet­lock joint. The pro­ce­dure is of­ten done be­fore horses be­gin their rac­ing ca­reers, but it is some­times per­formed on veteran race­horses as well. Although there is some ev­i­dence of the surgery’s ben­e­fits, there was no re­search sup­port­ing this in­ter­ven­tion in young horses, where it was pre­sumed to pro­tect long-term sound­ness and re­duce the risk of arthri­tis.

To de­ter­mine the ef­fect of the surgery on per­for­mance, re­searchers at Hal­lands Djursjukhu­s in Sloinge, Swe­den, and the Univer­sity of Saska­toon in Canada ex­am­ined the med­i­cal records, ra­dio­graphs and rac­ing his­to­ries of 163 Swedish Stan­dard­bred trot­ters.

They found that the pro­ce­dure did not have an im­pact on trot­ting speeds (av­er­age speed per 1,000 me­ters). Horses who un­der­went the surgery be­fore be­gin­ning to race posted speeds com­pa­ra­ble to horses who had not had the pro­ce­dure. Horses who had raced prior to surgery ap­peared to achieve the same speeds af­ter­ward, but their times did not im­prove. The only vari­able that had any ef­fect on rac­ing speeds was the num­ber of limbs af­fected—horses with frag­ments in three legs posted slower race times than did other horses.

Not­ing that they found no re­la­tion­ship be­tween the tim­ing of surgery and race speed or ca­reer longevity, the re­searchers con­clude that “the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of this sur­gi­cal in­ter­ven­tion should be crit­i­cally ex­am­ined.”

Ref­er­ence: “Rac­ing per­for­mance in Stan­dard­bred trot­ting horses with prox­i­mal pal­mar/plan­tar first pha­langeal frag­ments rel­a­tive to the tim­ing of surgery,” Equine Vet­eri­nary Jour­nal, June 2014

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