MRIs For Foot Pain

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MRIs are having a profound effect on our thinking about what causes a horse’s foot pain.

A study performed by the Centre for Equine Studies of the Animal Health Trust in the United Kingdom looked at the MRI findings of 199 horses evaluated for foot pain.??The horses in the study were confirmed to have foot-lameness problems by nerve blocks, but where X-rays, bone scan or ultrasound couldn’t identify anything that would explain the degree of lameness in the horse.

By using the MRI, the researchers found that most of the injuries were actually soft-tissue problems and had a poor prognosis. Prognosis was best for horses with traumatic injuries of the pastern bone or coffin bone, with 71% of the cases having an excellent outcome.

Horses with primary lesions of the deep digital flexor tendon or collateral ligaments of the coffin joint had much lower chances of returning to soundness, while horses with combined injuries of the DDF tendon and navicular bone, or primary navicular bone abnormalities, had the worst outcome. Most suffered persistent lameness.??

Research is needed to come up with more-effective treatments and to identify specific risk factors for these injuries. In the meantime, the best thing you can do to minimize the risks is make sure that meticulous attention is paid to the balance of your horse’s hooves, that you don’t let your horse go too long between trims and that you stay alert to subtle signs of foot pain such as:

• More rigid head carriage.
• Carrying the head either higher or lower than usual.
• Resistance to turning or accepting a particular lead.
• Shortening of stride.
• Choppy way of moving.
• Resistance to fluid movement.
• Reluctance to go down inclines.
• Stumbling on landing after going over a jump.

While other problems can also cause these symptoms, 60 to 75% of all lameness problems begin in the foot, making it a first-check place for all lamenesses.

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