Research on Suspensory Branch Injury in Racehorses

Research on the characteristics of lesions of the abaxial margin of the suspensory ligament branches (SLB) and description their surgical management and outcome.
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racehorses United Kingdom

Lesions of the abaxial margin of the suspensory ligament branches appear to show consistent features, suggestive of a single pathologic entity, which differs from other types of suspensory ligament branch injuries.

This retrospective case study by Dimitri Kadic and colleagues at Newmarket Equine Hospital in the UK aimed to report the characteristics of lesions of the abaxial margin of the suspensory ligament branches (SLB) and to describe their surgical management and outcome.

The article was titled, "Surgical management of marginal tears/avulsions of the suspensory ligament branches in 29 Thoroughbred racehorses." It was published in the Equine Veterinary Journal. The authors were D.T.N. Kadic, G.J. Minshall and I.M. Wright, all of the Newmarket Equine Hospital in the United Kingdom.

A total of 32 horses were diagnosed with abaxial marginal tears/avulsions of the suspensory ligament branches (SLB) at Newmarket Equine Hospital between 2007 and 2015. Of those, 29 had the diagnosis confirmed by surgical exploration and were therefore included in the study. All were Thoroughbreds in flat race training with time of injury varying from acute to several months prior to referral.

At presentation, 75% (n = 24) of horses were lame and the majority (75.8%, n = 22) had forelimb lesions, with the lateral SLB being the most commonly affected (81.1%; n = 26). In all cases, there was disruption of the palmar/plantar abaxial margin adjacent to the proximal sesamoid bone with a hypoechoic to anechoic defect and extrusion of echogenic material. 

At surgery, lesions had consistent locations and morphology of palmar/plantar defects in the epidesmon containing bundles of hemorrhagic ligament fibers that had avulsed from the PSB. The affected SLB fibers were removed by sharp dissection and debrided with a motorized surgical resector. 

Nineteen horses (66%) went on to race, with a range of 1–27 race starts (mean 9; median 4). Four horses that went on to race did not win or place.

Bottom line: Lesions of the abaxial margin of the suspensory ligament branches appear to show consistent features, suggestive of a single pathologic entity, which differs from other types of suspensory ligament branch injuries.

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