Clinical evaluation of the effects of immobilization followed by remobilization and exercise on the metacarpophalangeal joint in horses

Philip D. van Harreveld Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5606.
Present address is 129 Main St, Essex Junction, VT 05452.

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James D. Lillich Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5606.

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Christopher E. Kawcak Equine Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

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Earl M. Gaughan Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5606.

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Ronald M. McLaughlin Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5606.
Present address is the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762.

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Richard M. DeBowes Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-5606.
Present address is the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164.

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Abstract

Objective—To evaluate clinical effects of immobilization followed by remobilization and exercise on the metacarpophalangeal joint (MPJ) in horses.

Animals—5 healthy horses.

Procedure—After lameness, radiographic, and force plate examinations to determine musculoskeletal health, 1 forelimb of each horse was immobilized in a fiberglass cast for 7 weeks, followed by cast removal and increasing amounts of exercise, beginning with hand-walking and ending with treadmill exercise. Lameness examination, arthrocentesis of both MPJ, single-emulsion radiographic examination, nuclear scintigraphic examination, ground-reaction force-plate analysis, and computed tomographic examination were done at various times during the study.

Results—All horses were lame in the immobilized MPJ after cast removal; lameness improved slightly with exercise. Force plate analysis revealed a significant difference in peak forces between immobilized and contralateral limbs 2 weeks after cast removal. Range of motion of the immobilized MPJ was significantly decreased, and joint circumference was significantly increased, compared with baseline values, during the exercise period. Osteopenia was subjectively detected in the immobilized limbs. Significant increase in the uptake of radionucleotide within bones of the immobilized MPJ after cast removal and at the end of the study were detected. Loss of mineral opacity, increased vascular channels in the subchondral bone, and thickening within the soft tissues of the immobilized MPJ were detected.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that 8 weeks of enforced exercise after 7 weeks of joint immobilization did not restore joint function or values for various joint measurements determined prior to immobilization. (Am J Vet Res 2002;63:282–288)

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate clinical effects of immobilization followed by remobilization and exercise on the metacarpophalangeal joint (MPJ) in horses.

Animals—5 healthy horses.

Procedure—After lameness, radiographic, and force plate examinations to determine musculoskeletal health, 1 forelimb of each horse was immobilized in a fiberglass cast for 7 weeks, followed by cast removal and increasing amounts of exercise, beginning with hand-walking and ending with treadmill exercise. Lameness examination, arthrocentesis of both MPJ, single-emulsion radiographic examination, nuclear scintigraphic examination, ground-reaction force-plate analysis, and computed tomographic examination were done at various times during the study.

Results—All horses were lame in the immobilized MPJ after cast removal; lameness improved slightly with exercise. Force plate analysis revealed a significant difference in peak forces between immobilized and contralateral limbs 2 weeks after cast removal. Range of motion of the immobilized MPJ was significantly decreased, and joint circumference was significantly increased, compared with baseline values, during the exercise period. Osteopenia was subjectively detected in the immobilized limbs. Significant increase in the uptake of radionucleotide within bones of the immobilized MPJ after cast removal and at the end of the study were detected. Loss of mineral opacity, increased vascular channels in the subchondral bone, and thickening within the soft tissues of the immobilized MPJ were detected.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that 8 weeks of enforced exercise after 7 weeks of joint immobilization did not restore joint function or values for various joint measurements determined prior to immobilization. (Am J Vet Res 2002;63:282–288)

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