An investigation of injection techniques for local analgesia of the equine distal tarsus and proximal metatarsus



A positive radiographic contrast agent was injected into the tarsometatarsal (TMT) joints of both hindlimbs of 10 horses. Lateromedial radiographic views were obtained at 5, 15 and 30 mins after injection. Injection was successful in 19 of 20 limbs. Communication between the centrodistal (CD) and TMT joints was identified in 7 limbs (35%). Contrast agent extended around the tendons of tibialis cranialis (TC) and fibularis tertius (FT) in 18 limbs, and in 7 limbs some contrast entered the tarsal sheath. Slight to moderate plantar and/or distal extension of contrast agent was identified in 13 limbs. On a subsequent occasion positive contrast agent was injected subtarsally using one of two techniques and radiography was repeated. Contrast agent was principally distributed on the plantar aspect of the 3rd metatarsal bone, the plantar aspect of the suspensory ligament and between the superficial and deep digital flexor tendons. Extension of contrast agent into the TMT joint was identified in only 1 limb but in 8 limbs contrast agent extended into the tarsal sheath.

The practical implications of these results include the possibility that local anaesthetic solution injected into the TMT joint may alleviate pain from the CD joint, the insertions of TC and FT or the tarsal sheath. It may also result in perineural analgesia of the dorsal metatarsal nerves or the plantar metatarsal nerves. In some cases subtarsal injection of local anaesthetic solution may result in alleviation of pain from the tarsal sheath. False negative results for subtarsal analgesia may be achieved by inadvertent injection into the tarsal sheath or into a blood or lymphatic vessel.