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VT suspensory

When you call your vet and explain your horse’s lameness, the last thing you want to hear is “suspensory injury”.  This common and complex injury can cause long term lameness and restrict the horse from returning to its prior level of competition.

The purpose of the suspensory ligament is to prevent excessive extension of the fetlock joint during weight-bearing.  It is a band of fibrous tissue that originates from the top of the back of the hock and follows the cannon bone down to the fetlock region.  About two-thirds of the way down the cannon bone, the suspensory ligament splits into two branches, which each attach into one of the paired proximal sesamoid bones.  Enough pressure on these bands can cause overload and stress to the leg resulting in inflammation (desmitis) from a strain or tear to the ligament.

Electro-hydraulic shock wave therapy was first used over 2 decades ago to treat suspensory ligament desmitis and has remained a preferred treatment for reducing inflammation and promoting more rapid and higher quality healing, leading to better short term and long term outcomes for the horse.

Early research (McClure et al.)  comparing  shock wave treated suspensory ligament injuries  to  untreated ligament injuries showed that with just 3 applications 2 – 3 weeks apart, the treated ligaments had healed significantly greater than untreated ligaments (in terms of total echogenicity, fiber alignment scores, and total percent lesions).  This noninvasive therapy option shows a faster healing process compared to rest alone, which showed only a 20% success rate.

At last year’s American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention Amy Norvall, DVM presented recent research on shock wave helping horses return from a hindlimb proximal suspensory desmopathy faster than surgery or rest.  This research was summarized in the Horse:

Christie Bileddo shared a testimonial with us about her Irish Sport horse, “Who”.  This 20 year old horse suffered from a suspensory injury after coming off of a large jump.  Although it required 5 sessions of shock wave therapy, “Who” is back to trotting and ahead of the vet’s prediction by 3-4 months.  Her full story can be found at:

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