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Diagnosis and management of cranial and caudal nuchal bursitis in four horses

José M. García-LópezDepartment of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.

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Thomas JeneiDepartment of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.

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Kate ChopeDepartment of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.

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Kirstin A. BubeckDepartment of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.

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Abstract

Case Description—4 horses with a history of neck pain, abnormal head carriage, and related inability to perform were examined. Cranial nuchal bursitis was diagnosed in 2 horses, and caudal nuchal bursitis was diagnosed in the other 2.

Clinical Findings—All 4 horses had prominent swelling in the region between the frontal bone and temporal fossa (ie, the poll) and abnormal head carriage. Ultrasonographic examination revealed fluid distention and synovial thickening of the cranial or caudal nuchal bursa in all 4 horses. Ultrasonography-guided aspiration of the affected region was performed successfully in 3 horses. Radiography revealed bony remodeling and mineralization over the dorsal aspect of the atlas in 1 horse and a radiolucency at the axis in another. Nuclear scintigraphy revealed an increase in radioisotope uptake at the level of C2 in 1 horse. Although a septic process was considered among the differential diagnoses in all horses, a septic process could only be confirmed in 1 horse.

Treatment and Outcome—All horses were refractory to conservative management consisting of intrabursal injection of anti-inflammatory medications. Bursoscopic debridement and lavage of the affected bursae resulted in resolution of the clinical signs in all horses, and they all returned to their intended use.

Clinical Relevance—Cranial and caudal nuchal bursitis, of nonseptic or septic origin, should be considered as a differential diagnosis in horses with head and neck pain. Horses undergoing surgical intervention consisting of nuchal bursoscopy have the opportunity to return to their original degree of exercise. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;237:823–829)

Abstract

Case Description—4 horses with a history of neck pain, abnormal head carriage, and related inability to perform were examined. Cranial nuchal bursitis was diagnosed in 2 horses, and caudal nuchal bursitis was diagnosed in the other 2.

Clinical Findings—All 4 horses had prominent swelling in the region between the frontal bone and temporal fossa (ie, the poll) and abnormal head carriage. Ultrasonographic examination revealed fluid distention and synovial thickening of the cranial or caudal nuchal bursa in all 4 horses. Ultrasonography-guided aspiration of the affected region was performed successfully in 3 horses. Radiography revealed bony remodeling and mineralization over the dorsal aspect of the atlas in 1 horse and a radiolucency at the axis in another. Nuclear scintigraphy revealed an increase in radioisotope uptake at the level of C2 in 1 horse. Although a septic process was considered among the differential diagnoses in all horses, a septic process could only be confirmed in 1 horse.

Treatment and Outcome—All horses were refractory to conservative management consisting of intrabursal injection of anti-inflammatory medications. Bursoscopic debridement and lavage of the affected bursae resulted in resolution of the clinical signs in all horses, and they all returned to their intended use.

Clinical Relevance—Cranial and caudal nuchal bursitis, of nonseptic or septic origin, should be considered as a differential diagnosis in horses with head and neck pain. Horses undergoing surgical intervention consisting of nuchal bursoscopy have the opportunity to return to their original degree of exercise. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;237:823–829)

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. García-López (jose.garcia-lopez@tufts.edu).

The authors thank Beth Mellor for technical assistance with line drawings.