Pelvic fractures

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    Pelvic fractures can occur in a variety of ways, but the most common is as a result of direct trauma. This can be due to a bad fall, a road traffic accident or a horse struggling in a stable after being cast.

    The other type of pelvic fracture, which is seen exclusively in horses used for fast, athletic purposes, occurs as a result of stress to the pelvis.

    Do you suspect a pelvic fracture?

    A horse who has suffered an injury to the pelvis may show some of the following signs:

    • An alteration of stride length: a horse with a previous pelvic injury will often take a shorter step on the affected side. By compensating for a muscle imbalance, the horse may also take a shorter step with the diagonal foreleg

    • Asymmetry of the pelvis: this is usually obvious and can be seen by standing directly behind the horse

    • Abnormal swelling and/or wasting of the affected limb

    • A reluctance or inability to cross legs when asked to turn on a tight circle: the horse may be unable to display a full range of movement

    What are the chances of a full recovery from a pelvic fracture?

    The treatment of pelvic fractures invariably consists of two to three months of box rest followed by a gradual return to work.

    If the fracture is displaced, or likely to displace, it is prudent to cross-tie the horse to prevent it lying down, as the fracture may worsen if the horse has to struggle back to its feet.

    In many cases, it is sensible to give the horse some painkillers initially to make it more comfortable.

    The prognosis of pelvic fractures depends on the position and the extent of the injury. Generally, injuries that are displaced have a worse prognosis. Furthermore, injuries that affect the hip joint often do poorly as a result of subsequent osteoarthritis.

    Occasionally, displaced pelvic fractures are severe enough to warrant a horse being put down immediately, although this is rare.

    Many horses with pelvic fractures make a good recovery and return to the level of work they were doing before the injury.

    For the full article on pelvic fractures, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (11 June, ’09)

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