One of the most common reasons for lameness in the equine patient is degenerative joint disease, also known as arthritis. This is a common and debilitating condition that leads to lameness, a loss of performance, and significant discomfort in the horse. With joint injuries, the aim should always be to provide treatment before the joint degenerates, but in cases where degeneration has begun, arthrodesis of the affected joint can be an effective means of providing pain relief.
Arthrodesis is the surgical immobilization of a joint by fusion. Depending on the joint involved, fusion of the joint bones can relieve pain and symptoms associated with work, athletic use and weightbearing exercise.
Sometimes injured bones try to fuse naturally, but this process is imperfect and can result in ringbone, spavin or partial joint collapse, and the resulting strain on the tendons can exacerbate poor bone health. The natural fusion process is usually incomplete due to adjacent cartilage that prevents complete fusion, and in these cases, the cartilage needs to be destroyed – either by injection of irritating chemicals (facilitated ankyloses) or by mechanical removal and stabilization (arthrodesis) to complete the fusion process.