Fractures of the Third Phalanx



Case Study

Figures 12 and 13 illustrate the presence of an old fracture of the wing of the third phalanx. The original radiographs obtained as part of the purchase examination demonstrated osteolytic changes in the navicular bone, which were of concern to the examining veterinarian. When additional radiographs of the foot were obtained in order to evaluate the changes in the navicular bone, the old articular fracture of the third phalanx was discovered. It was interesting to note that this horse had been on loan to the purchaser for more than six months, had been used in competition, and was sound.
Figure 12. Figure 13.
Dorsoventral radiograph of the foot demonstrating an old fracture of the wing of the third phalanx with articular involvement. Dorsoventral oblique xeroradiograph of the same horse as seen in Figure 12 demonstrating the old fracture of the wing of the third phalanx with articular involvement.
In reviewing the radiographs at the time of purchase, I noted the changes but was rather optimistic about the horse's future. I believed that the osteolytic changes in the navicular bone were secondary to the inflammation present at the time of the third phalangeal fracture and therefore were not significant. I informed the purchaser that there was an old fracture of the third phalanx, but that the horse had certainly demonstrated the ability to live with it.

Four to eight weeks after purchase the horse went lame. Whether the current lameness was related to the old fractured third phalanx was not determined. In my opinion, this case demonstrates the correct relationship of the veterinarian to the purchase examination. The contract was between the seller and the buyer, and the veterinarian provided an interpretation of the clinical information. In the veterinarian's judgment, the horse had an optimistic future based on its performance and the radiographic findings. Even though the animal did become lame the veterinarian was not wrong and could have been criticized only if he or she had failed to diagnose the old fracture of the third phalanx.


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