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Bicipital bursitis is also known as whirlbone lameness. Horses, such as jumpers or cutters, can be more susceptible as the mechanical stress of intense training, and long periods of exercise can affect the bursa and cause lameness to occur.
Your horse may exhibit stiffness or a limited range to his gait; contacting the veterinarian is essential. Diagnostic evaluation, such as x-ray or ultrasonography may be required to determine a treatment plan. Prognosis can range from good to guarded, depending on severity of the condition and response to treatment.
Bicipital bursitis occurs when the bursa, or the sac between the tendon and bone, becomes inflamed. The bursa is filled with synovial fluid to reduce friction between the tendon and bone and when it becomes damaged or inflamed, it causes pain. The inflammation of the bursa can be mild or it can become septic.
Lameness is nothing to ignore on a horse. Should you notice that your horse is tender or favoring a leg call your veterinarian immediately for an evaluation. Other symptoms of bicipital bursitis include:
Your horse will exhibit symptoms of being in pain and can include restlessness, tossing their head, refusing to eat or drink or being anxious.
Bicipital bursitis can be caused by trauma, caused by the stress of intense exercise, or from a blow to the leg, or more specifically, the bursa. The membrane surrounding the bursa can thicken and cause inflammation to occur.
Septic bicipital bursitis occurs when the bursa become infected. It can become septic from a puncture wound that has introduced bacteria into the bursa causing a bacterial infection to start.
Your veterinarian will do a physical evaluation of your horse including palpating the affected leg. Be sure to provide any information you can about exercise routines and when you first noticed a problem. This can greatly help your veterinarian when making their diagnosis. Other tests that may be conducted to help properly diagnose bicipital bursitis can include radiographs, synovial fluid sampling, and ultrasonography.
Radiographs may be taken to confirm that there is inflammation within the soft tissue of the affected leg. X-rays will also help your veterinarian to see if there is any calcification of the bursa that could cause long-term effects. A sampling of the synovial fluid will provide an analysis and confirm or rule out a bacterial infection within the bursa. Ultrasonography may be used by your veterinarian to look for excessive fluid build up within the bicep tendon.
Each treatment plan will vary depending on the damage done to the bursa. Your veterinarian will set up the best treatment plan for your horse to ensure that they are comfortable and able to heal.
Any horse suffering from bicipital bursitis will be required to rest. Keep your horse stalled with plenty of clean, dry bedding. You may need to rest your horse for more than six months to completely heal.
For mild cases of bicipital bursitis, applying cold compresses to the affected area may help to reduce swelling.
A corticosteroid, an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory may be given to reduce swelling within the bursa and the surrounding tendons and combat any infections. Injections of corticosteroids should be given within the bursa.
In extreme cases of septic bursitis, the synovial fluid can be aspirated and drains implanted to remove the infected fluid. Antibiotics will be required if drains are implanted.
In cases of mild bicipital bursitis, the chances of a full recovery are good, provided you follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan exactly. Be sure to give all medications as prescribed and report any changes to your veterinarian.
In cases where the bursa is more intensely damaged or has become septic, the prognosis is guarded. Your horse may not make a full recovery, your veterinarian will be able to give you a full prognosis once an assessment has been done and treatments started.
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