Authors of section


Anton Fürst

Executive Editor

Jörg Auer

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Cervical complete luxations

Vertebral luxation may occur with moderate or severe neurologic signs. Symptoms and prognoses of luxations depend on their location, degree of compression of the spinal cord, and the duration of the problem.


  • Rearing and falling over backward (falls over jumps and obstacles)
  • Collisions and kicks (head on collisions)


Clinical signs

Clinical signs of cervical vertebral luxations depend on:

  • Degree of bony disruption
  • Instability at the fracture site
  • Severity of the trauma to the spinal cord

Clinical signs can be:

  • Mild ataxia to quadriplegia and sudden death
  • Lameness of the forelimbs
  • Neck pain, stiffness and torticollis
  • Sympathetic dysfunction: Horner syndrome, skin hyperthermia



  • The growth plates and their closure times must be taken into consideration when interpreting the radiographic images in foals and young adult horses.
  • Frequently fissure lines and fractures are overlooked. Other imaging modalities are advised.
  • Fracture lines are often poorly visualized.

Radiographic examination:

  • Lateral radiographs
  • Ventrodorsal radiographs. In the thoracolumbar region they are usually unrewarding because of the massive musculature around the vertebrae.


  • Possible up to C7 with standard CT scanner in adult horses.


  • Very useful for the neck area
  • Definitive diagnosis for cervical stenotic myelopathy is achieved by myelography, which helps to differentiate between dynamic and static compression.


  • Only possible for the first vertebrae with standard MRI in adult horses. A complete examination is possible in foals, small horses, ponies and donkeys.