Update: Mineralization Of Neck Ligament Not Related To Headshaking

Headshaking in horses remains a frustrating mystery for the most part, with little relief for the horses it affects. One recent hypothesis was that headshaking was caused by the mineralization of the longitudinal odontoid ligament, a fan-shaped ligament in the neck. In a study published in 2020, three headshaking horses showed mineralization of this ligament in CT scans.

Much remains unknown about headshaking other than it is assumed that trigeminal neuralgia is the underlying cause. Other veterinarians and scientists suggest that musculoskeletal pain may also cause head shaking.

Imaging a horse’s cervical spine used to be difficult, but diagnostic equipment has improved to the point where imaging this portion of a horse’s spine is now possible. Drs. Alison Talbot, Miguel Rodrigues and Thomas Maddox re-examined CT scans of 97 horses that came through the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital, a part of the University of Liverpool.

They looked for records to indicate any relationship between the mineralization of that ligament and the primary issue, as well as breed, age, sex and use. They also looked for any association with neck pain, head shaking or restricted range of motion in the neck.

They team found that 25 of the 96 horses (26 percent) had some mineralization of the ligament, but they found no association between mineralization and either idiopathic head shaking or any other clinical signs. They did discover that increasing mineralization was linked to age and sex: it primarily affected mares.

They determined that the mineralization of the ligament had nothing to do with head shaking or neck pain. They recommended that the significance of the mineralization be interpreted cautiously.

Reade the study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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