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Condylar fractures are the cause of 25% of horse euthanasia that occurs at racetracks in America. Despite this, the prognosis for a horse that receives prompt veterinary treatment may be fair to good.
Fracture of the third metatarsal bone (or condylar fractures) is one of the most common fracture injuries in horses and occurs predominately in young race horses. Although this is commonly considered purely an affliction for athletes, there are many causes of fractures in horses. These include horses who may suffer from underlying disease such as osteoporosis that predisposes them to suffering from pathological breaks. Other causes of fracture in horses are injury from trauma such as kicks or collisions.
The main symptom of diaphyseal fracture of the third metatarsal bone in horses is acute lameness occurring 10-15 minutes following racing, high intensity exercise or injury. Signs of fracture may include:
There are a range of types of fractures that may occur.
These fractures occur under three main circumstances.
In addition, repetitive strain injury caused by the bone becoming hypermineralised following repeated high speed exercise and large loads on the metacarpal bones may be a cause. This hypermineralisation causes the bones to stiffen, and reduces their capacity to handle normal load. This can lead to brittle bones prone to forming microfractures. This further reduces the structural integrity of the bone, predisposing the bones to fractures.
Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination on your horse. They may watch your horse from a distance first to monitor gait and watch for any abnormalities. As it is typical for horses suffering from this form of fracture to have several bouts of lameness prior to diagnosis, it is vital you discuss your horse’s history with your veterinarian.
When examining your horse sedation and stabilisation of the fracture to prevent further damage to the bone occurring may be required. If your veterinarian suspects a fracture has occurred, radiographs of the bone will be taken. This will allow any fractures to be visualised and your veterinarian to make the diagnosis.
The treatment plan for your horse will be depend on many factors. Therapy may include:
Conservative treatment may be considered for some animals. If your horse is able to be treated conservatively, your veterinarian will likely put together a walking plan to ensure your horse is having carefully monitored, gentle exercise to promote healing. Your horse may also require monthly radiographs to monitor bone healing.
If this is necessary, this will be done under general anesthetic, with your horse’s vital signs monitored closely throughout the procedure. There are many different approaches to surgical fixation your horse’s surgeon may choose to take, however, commonly small screws are used for this procedure.
Additionally, rest of 4-6 months if an open wound or infected fracture occurs will be prescribed as will antimicrobial therapy and supportive wound care and bandaging.
There are a range of factors that affect the outcome for horses who are treated for these fractures such as age, weight and complications following surgery. Other factors include whether the fracture is open or closed. and the degree of comminution. Although treatment using plates and screws for rigid fixation may be successful, complications such as infection developing, instable fixation, or increased body weight may prevent recovery.
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Diaphyseal Fracture of the Third Metatarsal Bone Average Cost
From 345 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $8,000
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