Prognosis with Cervical Spinal Surgery
Before the surgery is performed it is important for the client to understand that it takes at least a year for maximum improvement. Some horses require 18 to 24 months to get the full results. Patience and physical therapy exercise is important during the rehabilitation.
Typically, 80% of all patients can improve at least one grade and 54% can improve two grades or more with surgery. 33% of horses perform athletically. We feel that horses should be graded <1/5 before doing athletic work.
Static lesions at C6/C7 remain the most difficult cases to treat surgically due to the depth required for adequate exposure and the increased possibility of a postoperative fracture occurring during a bad recovery or a fall.
C6/C7 lessons most commonly occur in middle aged to older horses. The pathology of the cord compression is often related to arthritic joints of C6/C7 and also that this bone at C6/C7 is not as strong as in younger horses. This softened bone increase the possibility of post surgical complications such as fractures especially if the recovery from anesthesia is difficult or traumatic.
Young foals can have and should have cord compression treated early in life. They do not need to wait until they are weaned or yearlings to undergo successful surgery.
The more ataxic the patients are the more likely there can be recovery problems.
Patience is the key in the long term prognosis.
Physical therapy and exercise is very important in the rehabilitation period.
A published paper from the Ohio State (Reed & Robertson) documented the more favorable response to surgery if the surgery can be performed within 30 days of the onset of clinical signs.
We have done surgery on horses who have returned to all different types of work including horse racing, jumping, dressage, and breeding.
To learn more about horses who have had cervical spinal surgery and their amazing owners click on Client Cases.