Retrospective Study on Future Racing Performance of Foals With Septic Arthritis

The prognosis for survival in foals with septic arthritis is good and future racing performance does not appear to be affected.
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mare foal running field

In this retrospective study future racing performance of 114 Thoroughbred foals (<180 days old) with septic arthritis was compared with their maternal siblings and factors associated with survival were investigated.

In this retrospective study future racing performance of 114 Thoroughbred foals (<180 days old) with septic arthritis was compared with their maternal siblings and factors associated with survival were investigated.

This study published in the Equine Veterinary Journal was titled "Factors associated with survival and racing performance of 114 Thoroughbred foals with septic arthritis compared to maternal siblings (2009‐2015)" and it was authored by Thomas J. O’Brien, Sarah M. Rosanowski, Keith D. Mitchell, Joan B. Carrick, Troy D. Butt and Angus R. Adkins.

Foals included in this study had undergone arthroscopic, cannulae or through-and-through needle lavage for the treatment of septic arthritis over a 6-year period. The stifle (35%) and tarsocrural joints (20%) were most commonly involved. 

Overall, 130 synovial fluid samples were submitted for culture and cytology. Bacteriological growth was detected in 80 (61.5%) samples. Streptococcus sp. were isolated most frequently (32%), followed by Enterobacteriaceae sp. (28%) and Staphylococcal sp. (15%). Thirty-nine foals (34%) required repeat lavage of the affected synovial structure.

Ninety (78%) foals were discharged alive. Foals <26 days old at the time of admission were five times less likely to be discharged alive, and foals with concurrent multisystemic disease were six times less likely to be discharged alive.

 Sixty (67%) foals discharged alive started in >1 race, and there was no difference in the proportion of foals that started in a race or racing performance between foals treated for septic arthritis and their maternal siblings.

Bottom line: The prognosis for survival in foals with septic arthritis is good. Future racing performance does not appear to be affected. Younger foals and those with concurrent diseases are less likely to survive. Bacterial culture should be attempted on synovial fluid samples to guide treatment. 

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