Prevalence and clinical significance of increasing head height asymmetry as a measure of forelimb lameness in horses when trotting in a straight line after palmar digital nerve block. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Some horses increase in forelimb lameness, measured as vertical head height asymmetry, or differences in maximums and minimums of head heights (HDmax, HDmin), after a palmar digital nerve (PDN) block. The prevalence of this finding, or what it means clinically, has not been reported in peer-reviewed literature. OBJECTIVES: To estimate the prevalence of increasing head height asymmetry after a PDN block and determine if this is associated with cause of forelimb lameness. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective case series. METHODS: Head height asymmetry, normalised to expected vertical head displacement, from inertial-sensor data collections of all horses evaluated for forelimb lameness while trotting in a straight line at two different clinics were screened for cases that had an initial PDN block and then another more proximal block in the same limb during the same lameness evaluation. Medical records of the screened cases (n=213) were evaluated to determine the cause of lameness. Prevalence of increasing head height asymmetry was calculated. Differences in lameness amplitude between groups of cases that remained unchanged (Group 1), that increased (Group 2), and that decreased (Group 3) in head height asymmetry before and after the initial PDN block were compared (Kruskal-Wallis). Determination of the location of the cause of lameness and final diagnoses of cases were compared between Group 1 and Group 2 (chi-squared tests of independence). RESULTS: The PDN block increased head height asymmetry at a prevalence of 32.5% (95% CI=24.5%-41.5%) and 13.8% (95% CI=7.3%-22.9%), in clinic 1 and 2, respectively. Increasing head height asymmetry after an initial PDN block did not predict localization of the cause of forelimb lameness or specific diagnosis (p=0.1), other than indicating that it is unlikely to be in the foot (p=0.02). MAIN LIMITATIONS: Study samples consisted primarily of Warmbloods (clinic 1) and Quarter Horses (clinic 2). Analysis of blocking induced changes was limited to straight line trot only. CONCLUSIONS: Increasing head height asymmetry after PDN block is common during forelimb lameness evaluations. Other than indicating that the cause of lameness is more proximal in the blocked forelimb, this does not help determine the final diagnosis.

published proceedings

  • Equine Vet J

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Kolding, S. A., Srensen, J. N., Kramer, J., McCracken, M. J., Reed, S. K., & Keegan, K. G.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Kolding, Susanne A||Sørensen, Johnny N||Kramer, Joanne||McCracken, Megan J||Reed, Shannon K||Keegan, Kevin G

publication date

  • January 2023