Horse Owner Q & A – Ethyl Alcohol Fusion

There are always questions after a procedure has been done.  Below are some questions and my answers regarding the recovery of Ethyl Alcohol Fusion of the pastern joint on my mare Bailey.  If you have any questions, please send me a message with the question so I can incorporated it into this section.

Q. Was the procedure successful?
A. Success is an interesting word. What one person thinks is success, may be different to another. I wanted to be able to ride Bailey again even at a walk and have her not be in pain or limping. This procedure has been successful for that goal.

Q. After all Bailey went through- the ups and the downs, would you do it again?
A. Yes, because I have a horse that I love that I am riding again.

Q. Would you do the procedure again with her other leg if necessary?
A. Yes. I now know what to expect. I now know it is very possible for a positive outcome. It is unlikely that it will need to be done as it usually only affects one leg. I have an x-ray on her left leg and appears to be ok at this point, and Bailey is not being used at a level that could accelerate that in her other leg.

Q. Would you do it with another horse?
A. I have thought about that, especially since I own a second horse with a completely different personality, but I think I would still do the procedure if that was my last hope for the horse to be comfortable and usable to the level I was hoping for.

Q. What was the worst part?
A. The worst part was having no post procedure information on expectations on a daily or even weekly basis. It was hard to see Bailey limp and hold her leg up. It broke my heart. That is where having a supportive veterinarian that responds to your call was crucial. There are always doubters, and you need a good support system from family and your vet.

Q. What would you have done different?
A. I would have taken Bailey to Dr. Romero’s veterinary facility to have the procedure done there rather than first trying at my barn. I might also not have done the cortisone shots. Since Bailey’s high ringbone was so developed that didn’t really seem worth it for the cost and the limited amount of comfort it brought on my horse.

Q. How much did this cost?
A. The procedure is very affordable. To have Bailey done at the veterinary hospital, with sedation, and approximately 7 radiographs and veterinary surgical time you can estimate $475. That price does not include veterinary calls before or after.

Q. Do you think you will canter her in the future?
A. I don’t know what the future will bring. Every day I enjoy the fact that when I get on my beautiful mare, she can enjoy life with a good walk through the woods and not be limping in pain. We have cantered a few brief times, and trotted a little, but I don’t ask for that. That was never my goal for her in this procedure.

Q. Do you think any horse can have this done?
A. I am not a veterinarian. I do not know your horse. I think the procedure is affordable to try on any horse that a vet thinks is a candidate. To me it was worth trying as I had exhausted all other options except surgical fusion.

Q. What was the most important thing in her recovery?
A. Time! Patience is a virtue. There were many times I questioned the length of recovery. It just seemed to be taking too long. Now it doesn’t seem like it was that long.

Q. What could have gone wrong?
A. If the injection of ethyl alcohol hit a ligament it would damage the ligament and that I was told would be very bad.  That is avoided by being extremely careful in the process of the procedure- first the needle, x-ray, dye, then if correct position, injection of ethyl alcohol.  Although my veterinarian had not done this particular procedure on the pastern joint, he had done it on hocks and he was a board certified surgeon and lameness expert.  I also felt I had nothing to lose at that point.  Other than that, there were no real risks.

Q. Would you buy a horse if you knew it had high ringbone?
A. No, I would not because I am a trail rider and the ground is inconsistent.  Going downhill was hard on her with high ringbone.  For someone who needs a horse in a ring with proper footing, maybe they could use the horse for a while without many problems. I am a little obsessive, and I thought about Bailey’s condition 24 hours a day for 5 years. I wanted to help her so much. It can be exhausting and not always productive.

Q. Why didn’t you just do the ethyl alcohol injection and skip all the other stuff?
A. It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered this procedure and inquired about it to my vet. Surgical Fusion was always an option presented to me, but was never going to be a reality because of the recovery and financial aspect of it. This is relatively new and undocumented which is why I am sharing my story of Bailey.

Q. Did people think Bailey was suffering because of this?
A. People thought she was suffering before this.  Anyone who knows me knows that I do everything possible to ensure the best care for all my pets. I did get a lot of opinions and advice both from horse owners and friends that was inaccurate to her diagnosis and recovery. That is why a trusted veterinarian is so vital to the success. The horse owner has to be able to call the vet when questioning the progress and have the expertise of the vet assure you that the best interest is being done in the care of the horse. Her painful periods did not stop her ever from eating, enjoying treats, enjoying grooming and love. When I look back they were inconvenience pain periods that lead to healing. Just like a human having to go through rehabilitation and it being painful sometimes to reach the goal.

Q. Do you notice any difference in her walk or trot or canter?

A.  I do not notice any difference with the joint fused.




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