A new study from Bel­gium sug­gests that a horse’s risk of de­vel­op­ing a joint in­fec­tion af­ter arthro­scopic surgery is less than 1 per­cent.

Re­searchers at Ghent Univer­sity and Bos­dreef Equine Hos­pi­tal con­ducted a ret­ro­spec­tive study us­ing the records of 1,079 horses who had un­der­gone elec­tive arthroscop­y on a to­tal of 1,741 joints from 2006 to 2013.

A min­i­mally in­va­sive sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure that can be used to ex­am­ine joints as well as to re­move frag­ments and do other re­pairs, arthroscop­y in­volves the in­ser­tion of a rigid scope at­tached to a fiber op­tic cam­era through a small in­ci­sion.

In re­view­ing the records of horses who un­der­went arthroscop­y, the re­searchers doc­u­mented all post­sur­gi­cal in­fec­tions, not­ing whether they oc­curred in the joint space (sep­tic arthri­tis) or at the site of the in­ci­sion (sur­gi­cal site in­fec­tion) or both.

They found that sep­tic arthri­tis oc­curred in only 13 of the 1,741 joints treated arthro­scop­i­cally, and only eight sur­gi­cal site in­fec­tions were re­ported.

In ad­di­tion, the re­searchers found that a sur­gi­cal site in­fec­tion put a horse at greater risk of de­vel­op­ing sep­tic arthri­tis, and the in­fec­tion risk was higher when treat­ment in­volved le­sions mea­sur­ing 40 mil­lime­ters (roughly 1.5 inches) or larger, as can be found in the sti­fle joint.

Ref­er­ence: “In­ci­dence and risk fac­tors of sur­gi­cal site in­fec­tion and sep­tic arthri­tis af­ter elec­tive arthroscop­y in horses,” Vet­eri­nary Surgery, Oc­to­ber 2017

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