• horse;
  • surgery;
  • dorsal cortical stress fracture;
  • lag screw fixation;
  • racing performance


Reasons for performing study: The effectiveness and best method to manage dorsal cortical stress fractures is not clear. This study was performed to evaluate the success of lag screw fixation of such fractures in a population of Thoroughbred racehorses.

Hypothesis: Lag screw fixation of dorsal cortical stress fractures is an effective surgical procedure allowing racehorses to return to their preoperative level of performance.

Methods: The records of 116 racehorses (103 Thoroughbreds) admitted to Equine Medical Centre, California between 1986 and 2008 were assessed. Information obtained from medical records included subject details, limb(s) affected, fracture configuration, length of screw used in repair and presence of concurrent surgical procedures performed. Racing performance was evaluated relative to these factors using Fisher's exact test and nonparametric methods with a level of significance of P<0.05.

Results: Of 92 Thoroughbred horses, 83% raced preoperatively and 83% raced post operatively, with 63% having ≥5 starts. There was no statistically significant association between age, gender, limb affected, fracture configuration or presence of concurrent surgery and likelihood of racing post operatively or of having 5 or more starts. The mean earnings per start and the performance index for the 3 races following surgery were lower compared to the 3 races prior to surgery; however, 29 and 45% of horses either improved or did not change their earnings per start and performance index, respectively.

Conclusions and potential relevance: Data show that lag screw fixation is successful at restoring ability to race in horses suffering from dorsal cortical stress fractures.