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Removing chip from knee

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  • Removing chip from knee

    Who has removed bone chips from their horse's knee? How did it go? How long was the recovery-- what did recovery consist of-- and how is your horse doing now? And most importantly, would you do it all over again if you had to?

    My horse has a chip in his knee and I have two well respected and experienced vets telling me two different things based on the same set of x-rays: take it out now vs. it's been there and hasn't caused an issue so wait. Obviously, I don't want any more damage to be done to the joint but he's sound and has never taken a lame step in his life (nearly 7 years) and I don't want to somehow make matters worse if it never heals right. And the thought of making him (or any animal for that matter) go through surgery scares me; he's my baby-- you know how that is.... So, I need your input!!

  • #2
    I normally let a surgeon remove chips

    That said... yes, take it out!! I bought a horse off the track a few years ago... he was sound but took odd steps if rough footing so had him looked into and he had a chip in upper knee joint.... first vet said it was fused and could never be taken out... I thought that sounded odd and have questioned that vet on prior issues so I took him to my much trusted surgeon.... he removed a very large chunk (think chips ahoy chunky) and he saw very little damage to the joint otherwise... he was on 30 days stall rest with hand grazing then round pen T/O and then was back to regular schedule and undersaddle like 3-4 months after surgery. I did do a course of Adaquan after surgery but that was it.

    He is 100% sound and is the delight of his new mom!!!

    If you leave it in you are risking shortening his performance career.
    owner and friend of members of the Limping And Majestic Equine Society.


    • #3
      A friend has an 18 year old that was off last spring, the vet found a chip on his knee, told her he could take it out, but once he was over the trauma that caused the chip, he should be ok.
      He also said if he was a much younger horse, he may take it out anyway.

      I have a 20 year old that turned wrong this summer and chipped the top of the bone at his stifle:


      The vet treated him, he had swelling and fluid in there, but didn't want to touch the chip and he was completely fine a few weeks later and has not been lame since.
      That chip may even reabsorb eventually.

      I think it depends on the chip, if it may reabsorb some or all, where it is ...
      Your vets are the best to know how the ones like your horse have progressed and that may be why they have different opinions.


      • #4
        Yes, I had a chip removed from my OTTB's knee. OSU kept him for a couple of days afterwards, then he came home. The instructions I was given, for my horse, was to completely stall rest him for one month, then the second month to handwalk 2x a day for about 15 minutes each, and then third month turnout only. After that I could begin bringing him back into work slowly.

        In my discussions with the surgeon, I explained my concerns with the strict stall rest (horse is a reformed self-mutilator and high energy kind of guy) and she did tell me that she has had clients that immediately turned their horses out, or did some other, ah, rehab program. She did tell me that I could have a long term tranquilizer administered if needed and to cut his concentrated feed back. I elected to just cut feed back, though he did drop some weight, and he did wonderfully throughout the recuperating phase.

        I did have one incident that caused me worry. I can't remember now exactly how long I was to keep the entire leg wrapped, now almost two years later, but after following wrapping instructions, when I was to leave leg unwrapped for the first time, it blew up something awful! I called the clinic and they gave me some advise on how to handle the situation. Followed their instructions and everything worked out just fine.

        The only issue that I ended up having that was negative was the time off work left my horse with weakened stifles and that was a whole other issue! Otherwise, everything went very well.

        Would I do it again? Sometimes I think no, but the reality was that everyday I left that chip in there, it caused more and more damage and he was left with, in the surgeon's words, moderate damage, by the time the chip was removed. So, yes, given my horse's size of chip and location, yes I would do it again. I am sorry that I did not push for more diagnostics earlier to catch it sooner. He was never unsound on it, but I would hear a clicking noise in that joint and when I asked one of the vets from the clinic I use, she thought it was just his "normal". I have an ankle that makes lots of noise but is just fine, so what she said sounded plausible, plus he was sound on it. On a lark, when I had one of the other vets out for his hocks, I asked if she had the x-ray machine and if we could get a couple of pictures of it. That was when it was found and she told me that it was a pretty significant chip and would I like her to get a surgical consult on it. So that is how that ball got rolling...


        • #5
          First, I'm no expert on knee chips. I did have a horse with a knee chip though- it was found in his PPE (I think rads were taken of his knee when he bobbled on his flexion). He was an OTTB, age 8. The vet told me that since the horse was 'sound' to leave it be - and the vet knew that I planned on using this horse as a jumper.

          My horse was never lame in the 12 years I owned him, or in the 7 years I jumped him.

          On the otherhand, another horse I purchased had just had a chip removed ....it was an old chip,horse had been sound, and was removed only because the horse was extremely fancy and owner expected $$ for him - but not obviously with a chip. I took a chance, completed his stall rest, etc., and tried to bring him back slowly. He never went sound again, and vets figured that damage was done to the surrounding area when removing the chip.

          So, I think it could go either way....not much help I know, but chips are funny things. I maybe would get a 3rd vet to consult on this...2 out of 3? and then go with it. It also depends on what you're planning on using the horse for - jumping is a lot of stress, versus trail riding.....I don't think you mentioned that?

          Good luck with whatever you end up doing!


          • #6
            I answered your PM.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


            • Original Poster

              The goal for him is lower level eventing. Right now, since I am still learning, we're doing hunter/jumper with jumps being little verticals and cross-rails. I don't have grand visions of jumping 4ft immovable objects... I'm just not that bold and I have amazing respect for people who do!! My main concern is doing the surgery on an otherwise healthy and sound horse only to have him turn into a pasture puff.

              He passes flexion tests with flying colors and is happy. I just want to do right by him--- I planned on keeping this guy till he's old and gray and retiring him out to pasture or loaning him to a therauptic riding school as he has the perfect mind and temperament for it. I just don't want retirement to come at age 6.


              • #8

                It really depends where the chip is. Some you can leave in forever and some need to come out ASAP before they do more damage (even if the horse is sound chips can set you up for arthritis later).

                If you can email the xrays, PM me for my email address and I can have a board certified surgeon take a look....


                • #9
                  Originally posted by animaldoc View Post
                  It really depends where the chip is. Some you can leave in forever and some need to come out ASAP before they do more damage (even if the horse is sound chips can set you up for arthritis later).

                  If you can email the xrays, PM me for my email address and I can have a board certified surgeon take a look....
                  What a nice offer!
                  OP, definitely take the doc up on this!
                  "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                  ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


                  • #10
                    My friend had a chip removed from the front knee of her OTTB, when he was 4 yrs old. Never been lame on it, showed AA Hunters regularly with the occasional Jumper class. He is 16 now, and being retired due to some hind end lameness/soreness.