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Horse Health 101 : Horse Health Library : Lameness

Surgery Can Be A Treatment Option for Navicular or Chronic Foot Pain

While some horse patients will respond to less evasive forms of treatment to manage navicular pain, those horses with chronic navicular or foot pain may be good candidates for a procedure known as a neurectomy. This procedure removes sections of the digital nerves on both sides of the leg so the rear portion of the foot is deadened to pain.

This procedure is performed under general anesthesia and takes approximately 10 minutes per foot. The hospital stay usually consists of admitting the equine patient to the hospital the night before surgery and going home the day after surgery. Altogether the horse will spend about 36 hours at MREC's hospital.

The surgery consists of four small incisions to each leg resulting in approximately 8 stitches per limb. During the surgery the digital nerves are cut at two ends and a 5 inch section of nerve is completely removed from the leg. Removing a section of the nerve, or by simply cutting it, this prevents the nerves from growing back together. The surgical results are a horse that does not feel pain in the rear portion of their foot.

It is important to note, while only one foot may be suffering from chronic pain, in most cases, the Neurectomy is performed on both front feet. This keeps the second healthy foot from becoming painful.

A small portion of equine patients will form neuromas at the ends of these nerves after surgery. Neuromas are small growths at the ends of these nerves that may cause pain. Neuromas in most cases are successfully treated non-surgically with cold lasers.

Is your horse a candidate for a neurectomy? An evaluation by your equine veterinarian or one of the doctors at MREC is the best way to determine if your equine will do well with this surgery. Generally the surgery is performed on horses with chronic foot pain. The age of the horse is not a factor when evaluating your equine for this surgery. This surgery is not by any means a treatment for founder or horses which are laminitic. While it is mostly performed on the two front feet, it can be performed on the hind feet in cases of trauma.

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