Eventing Nation: New hope for Kissing Spine

Kissing Spine may no longer be the kiss of death for horses’ competitive careers. Kate Samuels brings us the latest.

From Kate:

Kissing spine, technically termed overriding dorsal spinous processes (ORDSP), is a painful affliction for many horses that causes them mild to severe back pain, and can have a very negative effect on the ability of the horse to perform certain athletic feats. Many OTTBs suffer from kissing spine, and the treatment options are expensive, and usually do not cure the problem. However, recently in Great Britain, there has been a new development in an exciting surgical option that is minimally invasive and has a 95% success rate in recent studies.  EN’s veterinary correspondent Dr. Laura Werner of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute first mentioned this therapy in her January blog.

Richard Coomer, an associate practitioner at Cotts Farm Equine Hospital in Pembrokeshire, England, recently developed “Interspinous Ligament Desmotomy” as a treatment for ORDSP, and is finding that the technique has a high long-term success rate. The surgery involves making a 1 centimeter cut near the spine and slicing the interspinous ligament (ISL), which seems to create a great amount of pain relief for the horses, and in many cases it helps the vertebrae to move apart slightly.

The surgery was performed on 37 horses with ORDSP, and a further 38 horses were treated with the usual technique of corticosteroid injections into the affected vertebrae. The horses with the surgery had two full weeks of stall rest, hand walked for three weeks, and then lunged for three more weeks. Horses with the injections had two days paddock rest followed by three weeks of lunging. After six weeks, the two groups were compared post-treatment showed that only 42% of the horses injected with steroids showed signs of improvement, while 95% of the horses who had surgery were improved under tack. Furthermore, radiographs of the two groups showed no changes in the horses treated medically, but a significant increase in the spaces between vertebrae for the horses treated with surgery.

Additionally, Coomer says that the “surgical technique allowed (affected horses) to return to work without further clinical signs of back pain.”

Now, the first horse in the United States has had the surgery. OTTB Olivia is the new poster child for the surgery, as the first horse in the United States to participate. She is recovering well in Fulton, NY at a ReRun operation, and horse enthusiasts everywhere are watching to see how she is rehabilitated.




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