Foot Casts Aid Treatment of Distal Limb Injuries

Phalangeal casts can aid healing of wounds in the foot and pastern region and help a horse return to function, researchers recently reported.

Although phalangeal casts (which cover the hoof and pastern but not the fetlock) are often used, there was little scientific evidence about how a horse treated in this manner will fare, compared with soft bandaging and daily wound care, said Karissa M. Ketzner, DVM, of the University of Missouri.

Ketzner and her colleagues looked at the medical records of 49 horses treated with a phalangeal cast for wounds in the pastern and foot region. Treatment protocols consisted of removing dead or infected tissue (debridement), cleaning the wound, suturing, cast application, and antibiotics.

The authors found that most horses did well. Three horses were still lame despite the casting, and one horse was euthanized due to persistent lameness.

Ketzner saw no difference between horses treated immediately and those with chronic wounds, which she attributed to aggressive treatment of chronic wounds, including cutting away the dead tissue until it looked like a fresh wound.

Ketzner recommended that owners contact a veterinarian as soon as possible after a horse is injured.

"A lot of these wounds might not look bad, but can involve synovial structures and become more expensive to treat if treatment is delayed," she said.

The study, "Wounds of the pastern and foot region managed with phalangeal casts: 50 cases in 49 horses (1995-2006)," was published in the September 2009 Australian Veterinary Journal. The abstract is available on PubMed.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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