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Authors of section


Alan Ruggles, Jeffrey Watkins

Executive Editor

Jörg Auer

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Nonsurgical fracture management

1. Nonsurgical treatment

Horses are confined to the stall for 60-90 days, depending on healing progress.
Depending on the severity of the fracture, cross ties may be indicated for about 60 days followed by 30 days of hand-walking exercises.

nonsurgical fracture management

Alternative technique

An alternative technique is to keep the patient in a sling, which is not snugly applied to the belly. The sling shown here is manufactured in Switzerland and is very well tolerated by horses.

nonsurgical fracture management

2. Overview of rehabilitation

Follow up films are taken periodically to assess progression of the fracture.

Left: Radiographic views of a horse that was kicked in the distal radius. An impression fracture can be seen on one view (arrow) but no actual fracture could be detected. A full limb cast was applied as a precautionary measure.

nonsurgical fracture management

Left: One week follow up radiographs show progressive development of the fracture lines. At this point the cast was removed and the horse placed in the sling.

nonsurgical fracture management

One month follow up radiographs showed progressive healing of the fissures allowing progressive increase f the work load over 4 additional weeks.

In most cases healing is adequate in 90-120 days to allow transition to paddock exercise.

nonsurgical fracture management


Occasionally a fissure fracture may turn into a complete fracture. Dependent upon the configuration of the fracture surgical fixation applying ORIF is performed or the animal is humanely destroyed.

Left: Four radiographic views of the radius with several fissure lines.

nonsurgical fracture management

Left: The horse was found the following day in the stall with a complete short-oblique fracture of the proximal radius and was subsequently euthanatized because the owner did not want have the patient treated.

nonsurgical fracture management