Proximal Digital Annular Ligament Desmotomy in Horses: A Cadaveric Study

Valeria Albanese, Dewey Wilhite, Fred Caldwell
May 2014
Journal of Equine Veterinary Science

Proximal digital annular ligament (PDAL) desmitis occurs in horses for which PDAL desmotomy is the only reported treatment. The presented work aims to develop a technique for safely performing PDAL desmotomy in horses. Twenty hind limbs and 13 forelimbs, harvested from horses dead or euthanized for reasons unrelated to any structure in the pastern region, were used. All horses were free of disease at the level of their PDAL. Proximal digital annular ligament desmotomy was performed using a minimally invasive approach to the digital flexor tendon sheath between the palmar (plantar) annular ligament and the PDAL, using a medial or a lateral access. Limbs were immediately dissected after the procedure to assess the completeness of the PDAL desmotomy and any possible damage to surrounding structures. The PDAL was successfully transected in all limbs except one. Damage to the surrounding tissue included transection of the palmar digital nerve (n = 1), longitudinal tear of the superficial digital flexor tendon (n = 3), and transection of the ligament of the ergot (n = 21). A medial approach was found to be safer than a lateral approach. In conclusion, PDAL desmotomy can be performed in a safe, repeatable, and technically easy way. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of a standardized technique for performing a PDAL desmotomy in the horse.