Results of treatment of 145 fractures of the third metacarpal/metatarsal condyles in 135 horses (1986–1994)



The objectives of this study were to correlate condylar fracture characteristics and type of treatment with subsequent capacity for athletic ability, and to determine the characteristics of healing that affect prognosis after fracture fixation. Medical records, post operative radiographic studies and race records were examined for 135 horses sustaining 145 fractures. Sixty-five percent of horses overall started in a race post injury (SPI) in a mean time of 9.7 months with a mean of 13.7 races post injury. Having raced pre-injury did not confer an advantage to starting post injury, though nonstarters pre-injury tended to take longer to return. For horses starting pre- and post injury, 66% improved or maintained their race class level after injury, whereas 64.2% decreased their race earnings post injury. Eighty-five percent of the fractures received internal fixation, of which 70% were complete fractures. Eighty-seven percent of horses with incomplete-nondisplaced fractures treated conservatively raced post injury. The percent SPI for incomplete-nondisplaced, complete-nondisplaced and complete-displaced fractures treated with internal fixation were 74%, 58%, and 60%, respectively. Males (72%) raced post injury more frequently than fillies (53%), and may represent a truer probability of SPI. Spiral fractures tended to take longer until their first start (mean 13.3 months). Fifty-two percent of horses with articular fragments were able to race post injury. Horses were more likely to start if 2–4 month radiographic healing revealed no evidence of the fracture except the presence of lag screws. Based on this series of cases, the majority of horses, with proper treatment, were able to return to racing regardless of fracture characteristic. Prognosis appeared to be affected by the severity of the injury to the joint, the presence of articular comminution and the quality of surgical repair.