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What is Arthroscopy of Joint?

Arthroscopy, also referred to as keyhole surgery, is performed on your horse's joint with a specialized endoscope, called an arthroscope. The arthroscope can be inserted through a small incision into a joint to determine medical conditions present and provide visualization to treat damage with small surgical instruments inserted into the incision. The arthroscope contains a tiny camera that provides imaging of the interior of the joint. This procedure is routine in human medicine and is being used more and more frequently in veterinary medicine to treat horses. 

It is commonly used as a diagnostic device, or to treat a variety of joint diseases and conditions that can benefit from surgical intervention. Because horses have large joints they are ideally suited to this procedure and it has become a standard procedure for treating joints surgically. The procedure is associated with less complications and better recovery than more invasive surgical procedures of the joint. It is a specialized procedure, and a veterinarian with training specific to the procedure is required to perform arthroscopy on your horse under general anesthesia.

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Arthroscopy of Joint Procedure in Horses

Arthroscopy is usually performed under general anesthesia, although local anaesthetic and sedation may be used in some cases. Radiographs such as MRI and ultrasound will be useful in guiding the procedure. The horse is usually administered intravenous general anesthetic and put in the dorsal recumbent position to allow 360 degree access to the joint. An anesthesiologist, veterinarian trained in this procedure, and an assistant are required for the surgery. The area where the incision is to be made will be shaved and prepared antiseptically and drapes used to isolate the area and maintain a sterile site. An incision is made to allow insertion of the arthroscope and hand instruments that will be used to manipulate and repair joint tissues. An arthroscope with a camera is used to access and visualize joint structures. A light is required in conjunction with the arthroscope to generate images. A video screen may be used so the arthroscope can project images onto a video screen for viewing during the surgery. Images are used for diagnosing joint disorder and if required, instruments are inserted into an incision to remove damaged cartilage, bone, bone cysts, foreign objects, and/or infected tissues as required. Following surgical removal or correction of damaged tissue, the joint is flushed with sterile solution and incisions are sutured. Vascularization is addressed during the procedure as necessary to prevent hemorrhaging. The procedure may take approximately 90 minutes.

Efficacy of Arthroscopy of Joint in Horses

Because the surgery is relatively non-invasive it is associated with excellent recovery and cosmetic results. Because your horse's joint are large, arthroscopy is usually straight forward and the joint easily accessed with this method. There is a decreased rate of complications and this procedure is replacing traditional joint surgery because of its good prognosis and minimal side effects.

Arthroscopy of Joint Recovery in Horses

Because the incisions for arthroscopy are small, they usually do not experience complications such as infection or rupture, however, incisions should be monitored post-surgery for complications. Your horse will need to be put on rest post-surgery but return to activity will be significantly quicker than with traditional open surgery. Recovery time is usually of short duration, although this will depend on the medical condition that was present in the joint. Postoperative medications may be administered as specific to the condition treated, such as antibiotics if infected tissue was present. Phenylbutazone may be administered if discomfort is present in your horse.

Cost of Arthroscopy of Joint in Horses

Because specialized training and equipment is required for this procedure and it is usually performed under general anesthetic, the cost of arthroscopy may range from $2,000 to $7,000 depending on the cost of living in your area, anesthetic requirements and location of procedure.

Horse Arthroscopy of Joint Considerations

Arthroscopy is not possible for all joints or conditions and requires specialized training and equipment. When appropriate, it is associated with much fewer complications than traditional surgery. If general anesthesia is required, complications related to anesthetic administration and recovery can be a factor. 

Arthroscopy of Joint Prevention in Horses

Disorder of the joint requiring arthroscopy in horses can be avoided by reducing injuries to your horse's joints. Exercise and performance should be designed to minimize repetitive strain on the joints, and symptoms of pain, discomfort and lameness in your horse should be addressed immediately with rest and veterinary attention. Adjusting your horse's activity and performance schedule may be necessary to avoid joint problems. In addition, feed with supplements to increase joint health may be appropriate; talk to your veterinarian if this is a concern.

Arthroscopy of Joint Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

21 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


5 weeks ago my horse had a fractured splint bone and fractured hock his recovery has been good until discharge one week ago . I have been advised that surgery is now required how successful is this

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3319 Recommendations
The success rate varies with severity and complexity of fractures; the tarsus isn’t a single bone but multiple bones with multiple articulation surfaces. It isn’t possible to give a success rate as there are too many variables including the specific location of fracture(s), techniques used, the experience of the surgeon among other variables. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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