Left: Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital's Scott Morrison DVM finishing tendon surgery on a laminitic horse.(Hoofcare & Lameness Journal photo)
On Wednesday, January 3, Scott Morrison DVM of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky traveled to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Rattling around in his briefcase were strips of 3M Fiberglas casting tape, Goretex fabric, thick felt, Betadine and a large aluminum bar shoe. One can only imagine what that jumble looked like on the security screen. For once, TSA inspectors waved the veterinarian through.
Morrison used those materials to create a temporary supportive foot cast for Barbaro, the champion 2006 three-year-old colt whose right hind leg shattered soon after the start of the Preakness Stakes last May. Since then, Barbaro has been a patient at the University of Pennsylvania's Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the university's rural vet school campus called New Bolton Center. In July and August, the colt fought the painful disease of laminitis in his "good" hind leg. He was left with one broken leg and one hoofless one, but he struggled to survive. The damage to his laminitic foot continues to be the greatest concern.
Laminitis is the devastating disease that ended the lives of great racehorses like Secretariat and Sunday Silence, the Standardbred champion Nihilator, and more recently, the two great European champion dressage mares, Annastasia and Poetin.
Morrison, who heads Rood and Riddle's innovative podiatry clinic, was sought as a consultant to assist with the foundered (a common term for a foot that has been ravaged by the disease of laminitis) foot. He first saw the horse on December 20 for an evaluation, then returned on Wednesday to try to help stabilize the foot.
On Friday, January 5, Dr. Morrison told me that the cast was applied, "because the foot is so unstable. He's just not growing enough wall on the medial (inner) side, and he's bearing most of his weight on the arthrodesis (surgically-fused) leg."
Morrison padded the bottom of the foot with thick felt soaked in Betadine (iodine solution); the hoof wall was padded with Goretex fabric padding which was then covered with 3M casting tape. The cast extends up over the pastern area to just below the fetlock, according to Dr. Morrison.
"He lands on his toe when he walks," Morrison commented, "and that needed to be addressed. I had asked them to take radiographs before I got there, and they showed demineralization (thinning or actual deterioration) of the coffin bone (pyramid-shaped bone in the base of the foot, encased by hoof capsule) at the toe and on the medial (inside) wing.
"I attached a big aluminum bar shoe to the bottom of the cast to help with derotation, to try to get that coffin bone more parallel to the ground."
Morrison observed that the horse was uncomfortable at first with the change in footwear, but that surgeon Dean Richardson reported the horse was more comfortable with it the next morning.
An ancillary purpose of the cast is to stabilize the foot in the event that the horse needs to be moved out of his intensive care unit home at New Bolton Center. Speculation is that the horse will be moved to an as-yet unnamed farm, possibly in central Kentucky, to continue treatment in a more active setting. No date has been announced for his discharge from New Bolton.
Dr. Morrison is the founder and head of the podiatry clinic at Rood and Riddle; his unit is the largest such clinic in the world. The clinic currently employs four foot-specialist veterinarians and five lameness-specialist farriers, as well as a staff of technicians and administrative support staff. Morrison is a specialist in laminitis and consults on cases all over the world. He is also a consulting editor to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal.
His most recent article chronicled the transplant of frog tissue on the bottom of an injured foot via the punch biopsy tool method; he was able to create a germinating bed of new frog tissue in a damaged area. Ironically, he is probably most renowned for an article detailing his use of sterile maggots to debride many cases of infected hoof tissue. That article can be downloaded at http://www.hoofcare.com.
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