Active tension-extension splints: A novel technique for management of congenital flexural deformities affecting the distal limb in the foal

P. C. Compston, R. J. Payne
June 2012
Equine Veterinary Education

A variety of methods are described for managing distal limb flexural deformities in the foal, including intravenous oxytetracycline and splint or cast use. This case series describes a novel technique that creates an ‘active tension-extension splint’ by wiring the toe into a custom-made fibreglass splint and therefore into active extension. A dorsal fibreglass splint is made by halving a cast that is set around the affected leg with padding underneath it, so that it is sculpted to a more appropriate anatomical shape. Cerclage wire is placed through the toe and the dorsal aspect of the splint, then tightened to pull the limb into active extension. Foals with distal limb flexural deformities that were treated in this way were followed up by examination of hospital records and telephone questionnaire. Records were examined for 13 foals treated between 2004 and 2010. One foal developed septic osteitis of the distal phalanx due to suspected laminar penetration; other post operative complications seen were bandage sores and minor cosmetic scarring. Out of 10 foals where follow-up by questionnaire was available, 8 had complete resolution of their deformity following active tension-extension splinting, one required inferior check ligament desmotomy for complete correction and one had carpal flexural deformities that did not resolve. All that survived to adulthood are sound and have achieved their intended purpose. This previously unpublished technique using a wire through the toe to create an active tension-extension splint has a high success rate for correction of congenital flexural deformities affecting the distal interphalangeal and metacarpo-/metatarsophalangeal joints in the foal. The majority of post operative complications are minor and easily managed. This is a simple technique that can improve the management of neonatal distal limb deformities both in a hospital situation and for equine practitioners in the field.