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Mention the word neurectomy – or denerving, as the procedure is often referred to – and you will immediately find yourself in contentious territory.

Deliberately cutting a troublesome nerve to induce lower limb numbness and therefore promote soundness is – and always has been – controversial.

Intervening to extend a horse’s life by giving it relief from pain is one thing, expecting it to continue to perform to the best of its ability is another.

Pros

  • If the surgery is successful the horse will be pain free
  • A horse can usually return to regular work
  • Technological, surgical and anaesthesia advances mean that success rates are improvingCons
  • The effects of the surgery may only last a few years in the forelimbs – the nerve can regrow
  • Careful management and a strict shoeing routine are required to protect horses’ feet for palmar digital neurectomies
  • The procedure is often undetectable, which may have implications for horses that change handsFor the full veterinary article on neurectomies, see the current issue of H&H (24 November 2011)

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