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Dr. Porter @ 352-258-3571
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Superficial digital Flexor Tendonitis (Bowed tendon) in a Horse!

A  twenty year-old mare presented for sudden, severe swelling of the left front lower limb. The mare was nearly non-weight bearing lame and had been seen galloping around her paddock moments before. Prior to my exam, the mare was stalled for 7 days and treated with ice and systemic non-steroidal mediation (phenylbutazone). On presentation there was a noticeable "profile" to the lower portion of the forelimb (Red line:Figure 1). The mare was moderately positive to pressure over this swelling and was lame at the walk. On palpation, there was no distinction between the superficial digital flexor tendon and the deep digital flexor tendon.
Figure 1
Ultrasound examination of the lower limb, beginning just below the knee (carpus) revealed inflammation of the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDF). The inflammation was moderate just below the knee (Figure 2) however became severe further down the leg (Figure 5). In Figures 2 and 3, moderate to severe edema (dark tissue) is noted with pockets of disrupted fiber pattern. The image in Figure 4 is of the opposite limb for comparison to /the abnormal limb. In Figure 5, the SDF tendon (Red arrows) is severely enlarged and there is no apparent pattern with regards to the fiber pattern. These findings are consistent with a near rupture of the SDF tendon.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5
Although the outward and inward findings are severe, the prognosis for pasture soundness is good. It will take 6-12 months for this type of injury to heal with a fibrotic scar but the mare is likely to return to soundness as a pasture horse. Unfortunately, her prognosis as a riding horse is poor and it is not recommended to return this mare to any type of forced work due to her age and degree of injury. Tendonitis of the superficial flexor tendon can occur in various regions of the lower limb. The closer to the knee/carpus (High bow), the worst the prognosis, even for pasture soundness. This is due to the constant irritation of the tendon when the horse advances the limb. In addition, horses that suffer a "bowed" SDF tendon are at increased risk for another injury to the same tendon and it commonly occurs above or below the original injury. My recommendation for rehabilitative care includes the following:

1: Limited activity: preferred stall rest with hand walking for 2 months followed by small paddock turn-out
2: Daily ice therapy for 2-3 weeks
3: Topical non-steroidal cream: Surpass
4: Consider Extra-corporeal shockwave treatment and PRP injection.

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