Study: Though Gnarly-Looking, Orbital Fractures In Horses Often Heal Well

A horse with a broken orbital bone can be a sight to behold – the horse’s head is often massively swollen and he may be unable to open the eye on the affected side. It can be impossible to imagine a horse with this type of injury ever being able to go back to “normal,” but a study has shown that most horses with occipital fractures have a good prognosis for both retaining their sight and returning to work.

A study from North Carolina University, led by Dr. Joseph Gerding, used 18 horses referred to the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine clinic for orbital fractures. The horses were injured by rearing in a confined area, running into a stationary object, or by being kicked. Fifteen of the horses had surgery to stabilize the bone.

Horses that had received kicks to the occipital bone had higher risk of trauma to the eye, vision loss or eye removal. Horses with this type of injury also had a likelihood of having fractures in other bones as well, possibly involving the sinuses and creating a massive nosebleed. If other bones were involved, the favorable outcome from occipital bone surgery becomes more guarded.

Horses that were injured from rearing may have additional complications that require more aggressive treatment. Sinus and skull X-rays and CT scans can help diagnose orbital fractures and assess if any other bones are involved.

The study team found that surgery to stabilize a broken occipital bone was often successful in restoring function and appearance, as 13 of the 18 study horses returned to their previous level of use.

Read more at EQUUS.

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