NEURECTOMY - NERVING HORSES
Many horse owners will choose a neurectomy as a last resort. This means that most will have tried other less invasive forms of treatment before resorting to surgery.
What is a Neurectomy?
A palmar digital neurectomy is a surgical procedure to sever the nerves so that the horse loses feeling in the back of the foot. The procedure is typically performed on both of the front feet. The objective is to relieve the pain.
Is it Effective?
Most vets are guarded in their answer to this question. This is because there can be significant adverse side effects. That's why it should be considered only as a last resort.
Complications can include:
- The lameness continues (often the nerves grow back)
- Infection of the surgical wound
- rupture to the deep digital flexor tendon, and
- Neuroma (a tumor that grows on the nerve tissue).
When Should It Be Considered?
When your horse in in pain and other treatments are no longer working then you might consider a neurectomy. If your horse is suffering from severe pain, it may well be a good option.
After surgery, your horse will lose feeling in parts of the foot. It is therefore very important to check their feet regularly for other problems that may occur. Remember, the horse cannot feel if a thorn or a stone has penetrated the foot. So you need to be much more vigilant.
There is a good chance that the surgery will only work for around 12 months as the nerves may grow back. When this happens the pain will usually return.
The decision as to whether to ride the horse after a neurectomy is a contravercial one. This is really a choice only you can make for your horse. The procedure does not correct the cause of the problem so you may continue to damage the foot further with continued riding. Certainly, you shouls not consider hard riding or riding on hard surfaces.