|Nursing a Foal Back to Health - Laser Therapy Helps Newborn Colt Overcome Leg Injury|
OSU veterinarians don't know exactly what happened to a young Kansas foal who couldn't stand up after his birth, but they found a way to help him.
The foal, the first from a four-year-old mare, was unable to nurse, so he was missing the important antibodies in his mother's colostrum. His owner, a small animal veterinarian gtom Wichita, Kan., knew the foal needed help when he found it. Having referred many clients to OSU's veterinary center, he didn't hesitate to drive almost 1 ½ hours to OSU's large animal clinic.
"In an unattended delivery, it's hard to say what happened," says Todd Holbrook, DVM, diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Large Animal and the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as the equine section chief at OSU's Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. "The foal was less than 6 hours old, and he had dramatic swelling in his upper left hind leg. He probably injured the leg during delivery."
Holbrook determined that the colt ruptured his gastrocnemius muscle in his upper left back leg, equivalent to the calf muscle in a person. After applying a supportive splint on the limb, Holbrook and his team decided to incorporate laser therapy for the first time to help heal the colt's muscular injury.
"The foal was treated using a low level laser therapy (LLLT) device which theoretically enhances healing including tendons and skin wounds," explains Kenneth Bartels, DVM, McCasland Foundation Laser Surgery Professor and Kerr Chair for Biophotonics. "LLLT is also used to alleviate pain due to musculoskeletal problems caused by degenerative osteoarthritis. LLLT is used in both human and veterinary medicine but its objective efficacy or benefit is still being investigated. Our Laser Lab has been working with a number of manufacturers to provide objective results for research as well as clinical applications for both large and small animals. This therapy is used frequently in rehabilitative medicine within the center's small animal veterinary hospital."
Holbrook and assisting fourth-year veterinary students, Matt Kren and Sabari Ford, held the foal while treatment was administered by Judy Branson. Branson, a registered veterinary technician, received additional training to become licensed to properly operate laser equipment for veterinary applications. She treated the foal for 10 minutes each day.
"After several days of laser treatment, the swelling had gone down considerably," reports Holbrook. "This is an uncommon injury in foals. We put a splint on the foal's leg to provide support so he could stand and nurse. By day 12, we were able to send him home with a splint and wrap on his leg."
The foal's owner reported that the foal was able to walk without the splint approximately 2 ½ weeks after discharge. The following week, the foal returned for an ultrasound examination to determine how the healing had progressed.
"I am very pleased with the foal's progress," says Holbrook. "He still has a mildly abnormal gait, and fragments of bone that were distracted from the aspect of the leg where the gastrocnemius originates are still present."
The colt's owner also believes the healing process has gone very well. He uses laser therapy often in his small animal practice and looks forward to watching his foal continue to grow with no lasting effects from the early injury.
Two months passed and the foal returned to OSU for one final checkup.
"The injury continues to improve radiographically," says Holbrook. "His exercise has been gradually increased so that he is now ready to turn out to pasture. While splint immobilization was the primary treatment modality, the laser therapy appeared to rapidly reduce the fluid accumulation (edema and hemorrhage) early in the treatment of this case and we are very satisfied with the results."