Prevalence and Clinical Significance of Increasing Head Height Asymmetry as a Measure of Forelimb Lameness in Horses When Trotting in a Straight Line After Palmar Digital Nerve Block

Increase in head height asymmetry following PDN is common during forelimb lameness examinations and did not predict localization of the cause of lameness in this retrospective case series. MarianVejcik/iStock via Getty Images

Some horses increase in forelimb lameness, measured as vertical head height asymmetry, or differences in maximums and minimums of head heights (HDmax, HDmin), after a palmar digital nerve (PDN) block. The aim of this retrospective case series was to estimate the prevalence of increasing head height asymmetry after a PDN block and determine if this is associated with cause of forelimb lameness.

Head height asymmetry, normalized to expected vertical head displacement, from inertial-sensor data collections of all horses evaluated for forelimb lameness while trotting in a straight line at two different clinics were screened for cases that had an initial PDN block and then another more proximal block in the same limb during the same lameness evaluation. Medical records of the screened cases (n = 213) were evaluated to determine the cause of lameness. Prevalence of increasing head height asymmetry was calculated. Differences in lameness amplitude between groups of cases that remained unchanged (Group 1), that increased (Group 2), and that decreased (Group 3) in asymmetry before and after the initial PDN block were compared (Kruskal-Wallis). Determination of the location of the cause of lameness and final diagnoses of cases were compared between Group 1 and Group 2 (chi-squared tests of independence).

The PDN block increased asymmetry at a prevalence of 32.5% (95% 4.5%–41.5%) and 13.8% (95% CI 7.3%–22.9%), in clinic 1 and 2, respectively. Increasing asymmetry after an initial PDN block did not predict localization of the cause of forelimb lameness or specific diagnosis, other than indicating that it is unlikely to be in the foot (p = 0.02).

Bottom Line 

Increasing head height asymmetry after PDN block is common during forelimb lameness evaluations. Other than indicating that the cause of lameness is more proximal in the blocked forelimb, this does not help determine the final diagnosis.

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