Flipping the Switch on Proud Flesh

Could a new and deceptively simple-looking medical wrap be the ultimate answer to stopping abundant scar tissue on our horse’s lower legs? At least one equine veterinarian thinks this innovation is deserving of a closer look.

A new study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science this March suggests that a medical device that emits low-level microcurrents directly to a wound may prevent tissue granulation (known more commonly as proud flesh) in lower extremities of horses, as well as generally improve the quality and rate of overall wound healing and recovery.  Microcurrent technology is already on the public market for animals of all kinds as well as being FDA approved for humans, but equine veterinarians in particular are taking note of the product’s potential to cure an age-old battle with lower leg wound care.

In her article, Dr. Janet Varhus describes 10 case studies where the device was used on 10 different horses presenting various traumatic lower limb wounds, and in 8 of the 10 cases, the mean healing time from open wound to complete wound closure was 30 days. Previous studies suggest that the mean healing time for traditional dressings and wrapping is closer to 70-80 days.  Cases where wounds are left untreated, if the horse was able to avoid disfigurement or infection, usually close in around 90 days, and are often plagued by the physical and cosmetic issues of proud flesh.

Horse Nation microcurrent wound treatment example

The microcurrent “device” is less like a device and more like the world’s fanciest band-aid: called Procellera, it essentially looks like a square gauze pad, and can be cut to size to fit the wound. It’s then wrapped under gauze and vet wrap similar to other dressings and changed every 4-6 days. No additional treatment or external power is needed. The gauze has dozens of “dots” that contain elemental silver and zinc, which when applied to the skin with a conductive fluid (such as saline), act like mini-batteries and start to interact with the electric current that already exists in the body. That current signals an army of healing cells to the wound site to start rapid production of healthy skin, which in turn reduces production of granulated tissue. Not only does the skin start to heal faster, it heals better: it’s chock full of healthy, strong, elastic collagen that produces something less like a scar and more like regular skin and hair.

An example of a microcurrent device

An example of a microcurrent device

The product was tested both on horses who had been treated for several weeks and were presenting granulated tissue already, as well as horses with fresh wounds from the same day they started treatment. The most dramatic healing generally seemed to come at the start of treatment: often in the first 8-10 days the horse’s wound area had decreased 30-40% with healthy skin growing at the edges of the wound. At least one case horse started the study with injuries that put him at risk for euthanasia, and by day 74 the wound was nearly closed and new hair and skin were prevalent, with no signs of proud flesh.

Dr. Varhus ultimately concluded with how we all feel about our horses and lower limb wounds: there’s a LOT about them that can keep an owner up at night:  Infection, aesthetics, mobility, and ultimately whether or not our horse can still perform its duties after a devastating injury. Moreover, current products and the exhaustive process of daily scraping, dressing, and rewrapping are impractical, at best. So the evidence that Procellera might shorten and lessen the worry for horse owners means this is definitely a technology the equine science community should continue to study and test.

More information: This study was published in its entirety in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, Volume 34, Issue 3 in March 2014 under the article title “A Novel Bioelectric Device Enhances Wound Healing: An Equine Case Series” by Janet Varhus, DVM. Access to this article and others can be purchased, or is often available through your local public library or University. 

Disclaimer: Equine health information and news shared at HorseNation should never be considered as awesome as, or a substitute for, the real-life advice of your veterinarian. Always consult with the legitimate powers that be when requiring medical attention for you or your 4-legged friend! 

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