Sudden death caused by spinal cord injury associated with vertebral fractures and fetlock failure in a Thoroughbred racehorse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The most prevalent causes of death in racehorses are musculoskeletal injuries, causing ~83% of deaths within the racing industry in California and elsewhere. The vast majority of these injuries have preexisting lesions that predispose to fatal injury. A 4-y-old Thoroughbred colt suffered an acute suspensory apparatus failure, including biaxial proximal sesamoid bone fractures of the right front fetlock, causing loss of support of the fetlock joint and consequent fall with fractures of the cervical and sacral spine. Cervical fracture caused spinal cord damage that resulted in sudden death. A preexisting lesion in the medial proximal sesamoid bone likely predisposed to complete fracture of this bone and fetlock breakdown. Interestingly, a comparable osteopenic lesion was present in the intact medial proximal sesamoid bone of the left forelimb, which is consistent with bilateral repetitive overuse injury in racehorses. The morphologic features of the cervical and sacral spine fractures were compatible with acute injury; no evidence of preexisting lesions was seen. Most likely, these acute vertebral fractures occurred as a result of the horse falling. This case emphasizes the importance of performing a detailed autopsy in horses that suffer an appendicular musculoskeletal injury, particularly in fatal cases when the horse dies following a leg injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • fetlock breakdown
  • fracture
  • proximal sesamoid bones
  • racehorses
  • sudden death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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