Professor in Equine Surgery at University of Montreal, Quebec collaborated with an orthotics research center in Canada to develop a customized splint and connecting base to support the horse’s leg. Equine surgeons can now perform needle arthroscopy in standing, sedated horses.

Early and accurate diagnosis of equine knee disorders can lead to better treatment and recovery, but sometimes radiography and ultrasound aren’t enough. Advanced imaging such as computed tomography (CT) and MRI is technically difficult to acquire for equine knees. Explorative needle arthroscopy gives specific details about issues involving cartilage, bone, and ligaments in the joints but because of the position needed for the procedure and the risks involved, knee arthroscopy in horses has always required general anesthesia, until now.

General anesthesia presents nonegligible risks in horses, including neuropathies, respiratory issues, and even fractures. It’s also a significant expense for the owner, so standing procedures offer clear benefits.

Horses must stay calm throughout the procedure, Bonilla said. Sedation is a necessity, but surgeons must take the horse’s temperament and handling experience into consideration. “Not every horse is eligible,” he said.

And the procedure isn’t appropriate for all horses with knee problems, he adds. “This procedure is only beneficial for a group of horses in which traditional diagnostics (such as radiography and ultrasound) are unrewarding,” Bonilla explained. “Not every horse with a knee problem will need this technique performed.”