Shock Wave a Valid Treatment for Osteoarthritis, Study Finds

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) significantly reduces lameness in horses with osteoarthritis, but it does not alter the course of disease, reported researchers from the Equine Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University. They said ESWT could prove to be a valuable tool in the management of osteoarthritis, particularly if used in combination with another treatment modality capable of affecting the disease process.

ESWT is non-invasive medical procedure that generates pulses of sound that travel through the skin. In horses, ESWT is used for the management of soft tissue injuries, as well as inflamed or arthritic joints.

To evaluate ESWT in horses with osteoarthritis, David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, and colleagues evaluated 24 horses, each with osteoarthritis induced in one knee. The researchers split these horses into three groups: an ESWT group, an ESWT placebo group (did not receive treatment), and a third group that received polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG). ESWT was performed two times (on days 14 and 28 post-operatively) and PSGAG was administered intramuscularly every four days for 28 days.

The researchers looked at degree of lameness and synovial fluid analysis, as well as the gross and microscopic evaluation of the cartilage and synovial membranes.

According to Frisbie, horses treated with ESWT, "had a significant improvement in lameness compared to both the ESWT placebo and the horses treated with intramuscular PSGAG."

While no disease-modifying effect was noted in any of the treatment groups, the authors suggest that, based on this inaugural controlled study, ESWT might be beneficial for horses with evidence of osteoarthritis, particularly if used in conjunction with a drug known to have disease-modifying properties.

Frisbie noted that no adverse events were seen in response to either the intramuscular PSGAG or the ESWT in any of the horses.

The study, "Evaluation of the effect of extracorporeal shock wave treatment on experimentally induced osteoarthritis in middle carpal joints of horses," was published in the April 2009 edition of the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

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.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More