Desmitis of the distal digital annular ligament in seven horses: MRI diagnosis and surgical treatment. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: (1) To describe the clinical signs and abnormalities observed on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 7 horses with desmitis of the distal digital annular ligament (DDAL); (2) to describe the normal magnetic resonance (MR) appearance and thickness of the DDAL in health; and (3) to describe a tenoscopic surgical technique for treating horses with desmitis of the DDAL. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective study. ANIMALS: Horses (n=7) with desmitis of the DDAL. METHODS: MR examinations of 20 sound horses were reviewed to determine the normal appearance of the DDAL. Dimensions obtained from these images were compared with MR findings from 7 horses with DDAL desmitis. Desmitis of the DDAL was treated by tenoscopic surgery and outcome assessed. RESULTS: Horses with DDAL desmitis had lameness (grade 2-3 out of 5) that improved after a palmar digital nerve block. The affected DDAL was enlarged and had an abnormal signal on MR images of the feet. After tenoscopy and DDAL transection, 5 horses returned to athletic performance, including 2 horses that failed to respond to medical treatment and rest before surgery. CONCLUSION: Primary desmitis of the DDAL is a cause of lameness in horses. Transection of the DDAL allowed 5 horses with this injury to return to athletic performance. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: DDAL desmitis should be included in the differential diagnoses of horses with lameness that improves after a palmar digital nerve block but have no abnormalities observed on radiographs of the feet. Tenoscopic surgical transection of the DDAL is an effective treatment for some horses.

published proceedings

  • Vet Surg

author list (cited authors)

  • Cohen, J. M., Schneider, R. K., Zubrod, C. J., Sampson, S. N., & Tucker, R. L.

citation count

  • 23

complete list of authors

  • Cohen, Jennifer M||Schneider, Robert K||Zubrod, Chad J||Sampson, Sarah N||Tucker, Russell L

publication date

  • June 2008