Lame or Ataxic? Kinetic Gait Analysis Can Tell

Being able to tell the difference between a mild lameness and subtle spinal ataxia is an important, yet challenging, endeavor in equine practice. Ohio State researchers recently reported that kinetic gait analysis--the computer analysis of a horse's gait--can help veterinarians distinguish between the two conditions with "excellent accuracy."

"Until now, attempting to establish whether a horse's gait abnormality was due to a musculoskeletal versus neurological issue has been time consuming, frustrating, and, oftentimes, inconclusive," reported Alicia L. Bertone, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, from the Comparative Orthopedic Research Laboratory at The Ohio State University. "In addition, diagnostic delays further delay the institution or application of appropriate treatments and potentially worsen the horse's prognosis."

To evaluate the efficacy of kinetic gait analysis for the detection, quantification, and differentiation of hind limb lameness and spinal ataxia, Bertone and colleagues analyzed the gaits of 36 horses. This included 12 normal horses, 12 horses with a hind limb lameness, and 12 horses with neurologic problems.

"We observed characteristic changes in specific kinetic variables between the lame and neurologic horses," Bertone said.

Specifically, lateral force peak and the variation in vertical force were best able to differentiate between ataxia and lameness.

According to Bertone, "These results also suggest that kinetic gait analysis can also be used to confirm the absence of both lameness and ataxia during routine pre-purchase examinations."

Bertone and colleagues are setting the equipment up for use by referring veterinarians and clients. They anticipate the charges will be similar to those in place for a performance test on the equine treadmill.

The study, "Use of kinetic gait analysis for detection, quantification, and differentiation of hind limb lameness and spinal ataxia in horses," was published in the March 1, 2009, edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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