To describe the characteristics of osteomyelitis lesions of the patella and to report short- and long-term outcome after treatment in 8 foals.

Study Design

Retrospective case series.


Foals (n = 8).


Medical records (2003–2007) and radiographs of foals that had osteomyelitis of the patella were reviewed. Inclusion criteria included clinical, radiographic, and surgical findings consistent with osteomyelitis of the patella, and a long-term follow-up of >15 months. Information acquired included signalment, hematologic and serum biochemical profile results, clinical and radiographic signs, surgical technique and perioperative treatment. Follow-up radiographs were evaluated and outcome was determined from veterinary examination, race records, and telephone questionnaire.


Six foals survived long term (15 months–4 years); all had intralesional and systemic antimicrobial therapy, along with synovial lavage and antimicrobial medication. All were sound and achieved either yearling sales (n=3), show hunter or racing (2). Two foals died in the short term from renal failure and suppurative peritonitis secondary to cecal perforation, 1 remaining lame with suppurative osteonecrosis confirmed at necropsy. This foal was not administered intralesional antimicrobial therapy.


Prompt medical and surgical therapy for osteomyelitis of the patella can result in a good prognosis for soundness and a potential athletic career. Concurrent septicemia or other systemic perinatal disease can result in prolonged therapy and delayed recovery.