Two fillies with facial fractures went on to high-performance careers after undergoing successful surgeries to repair their sinuses. Veterinarians based the technique on one used to repair human skull fractures. Horse’s skull is kind of like hollow shell, at least right over the sinus cavities, according to one equine surgical team. And all it takes is a good kick to that skull bone to leave a dent into the hollow space beneath it, just like it would if someone kicked your paper mâché penguin. To return that dented skull bone back to the right shape and protect the structures beneath, surgeons can follow the paper mâché concept: inflate a balloon.

Before performing surgery, the foals underwent CT scans to assess their tissue damage. Based on those scans, the surgical team designed customized strategies to repair each filly’s injury (both had sustained kicks to the face).

Within four weeks, fillies were sedated and the balloons and catheters surgically removed and holes closed. The fillies recovered well, with full function of their respiratory routes, eyes and tear ducts, and sinuses.

Horses suffering skull fractures such as these don’t always appear to have a “dent” at first, but the earlier one can get a fracture like this repaired, the better the outcome will be.

“This is a relatively inexpensive method for sinus fracture repair with very good functional and cosmetic results,” said Alison Gardner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVECC, of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Ohio State University, in Columbus.