Should the Screw Stay In?

Q. My 2-year-old filly clipped a fence post in a pasture eight months ago. The result was a slab fracture of the right hind long pastern bone. My vet attempted to repair it with a screw, which failed to hold the fragment in place, so I opted to leave it in a cast for eight weeks and let it heal naturally. After babying my filly for eight months, she's currently sound at all gaits, although she favors it at rest. Additional X rays reveal the fracture has healed and the joint is in the process of fusing. The head of the screw is buried in about three-eighths of an inch of bone and the tail end is protruding about three threads. The only soft tissue structure in that area is the collateral ligament. Should I leave this alone since she appears to be on the road to soundness or when the fusion process is complete, try having the end of the screw cut off? Which is the greater risk?


A. As a general rule, the screw is removed once healing is complete. Depending on the intended use, you can go back and have the screw removed if the mare becomes lame and the lameness is localized to the screw. Do not try to cut the exposed threads, as you will likely do much more harm than good. The screw might irritate the collateral ligament, if that is what it is entering, or the differing material properties between the bone and the screw can be painful during movement (this is usually at high speed).

About the Author

R. Jay Bickers, DVM, Dipl. ACVS

R. Jay Bickers, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, practices at Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Stephenville, Tx. His clinical interests include lameness, orthopedic surgery, colic surgery and chiropractics.

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