Navicular Therapy Injections

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The November 15 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association has an article on the use of injections of corticosteroids and hyaluron into the navicular bursa for horses with signs of navicular disease (including deep digital flexor tendonitis).

Coming from Washington State University, this retrospective study looked at 101 horses from 2000 to 2008. Horses identified as having navicular problems by an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) were included in the study. Follow-up included contact with the owners to see if horses could return to work.

The corticosteroids were used to reduce inflammation. The hyaluron was used in an attempt to break down any scar tissue in the area. Results indicated that horses treated with a lameness history of less than six months had a much better outcome.

How can this study help you' Most of our horses won?t have easy access to an MRI for lameness. So clinical impressions and radiographs will have to do for diagnosing most cases. The truly relevant information here is that horses who were treated aggressively?with the injections, plus rest, rehabilitation and corrective shoeing?early on in their lameness did much better than horses who had gone on for a while. More scar tissue was present as time went on and other changes in the foot could be expected with a chronic lameness.

If you do have access to MRI, you will be better able to predict your horse's response to treatment and likelihood of returning to his normal work as scar tissue in the joint can be evaluated more accurately.

As is so often the case, responding to a problem right away makes treatment less expensive and the prognosis for return to normal work much higher.

Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, Contributing Veterinary Editor