Diagnosis And Treatment Of A Spontaneous Rupture Of The Deep Digital Flexor Tendon

Therapeutic shoe with heel extension seen as key to successful outcome

The flexor tendons of the front limb of a horse are a common site of injury. Often, lacerations will damage the superficial digital flexor tendon, deep digital flexor tendon and even the suspensory ligament.

Characteristics Of These Injuries

Severe stress and strain of these structures will lead to tendonitis. A rupture of the deep digital flexor tendon with the superficial digital flexor tendon unaffected and intact is uncommon. To our knowledge, an injury like this has not been reported in the veterinary literature, so there is no common method of 
repair currently in use to refer to or improve upon.

When the deep digital flexor tendon is compromised, the horse presents with a severe lameness, generally 4 out of 5, a moderate hyperextension of the metacarpophalangeal joint and severe hyperextension of the distal interphalangeal joint, as shown by a drop in the fetlock and toe elevation upon weight bearing. There is also inflammation present over the area of the rupture defined by heat, pain and swelling.

The following protocol was gathered from a case presented in November 2004. This case involved a 6-month-old Morgan filly who presented with an acute left forelimb lameness. She resided in a large pasture with other horses and had no history of previous injury.

Materials And Methods

Diagnosis of a deep digital flexor tendon rupture is based on clinical signs and confirmed with sonographic examination. A drop in the fetlock, elevation of the toe and severe lameness are clinical signs that are suggestive of compromise…

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