Barbaro's cast changed

X-rays show healing in first look at leg since surgery

June 14, 2006|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro took a major step on his road to recovery from a shattered right rear leg yesterday, when X-rays revealed his broken bones are mending.

Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's New Bolton Center, decided yesterday morning it was time to change the cast Barbaro has been wearing since the day after he broke his leg in three places early in the Preakness Stakes on May 20.

"It seemed to be itching him," Richardson told Dr. Corinne Sweeney, director of the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa.

Richardson said he was concerned about whether there was something going on inside the cast that shouldn't be and decided to find out. He started the cast change procedure with a partial sedation but then decided it would be better to do it under general anesthesia, which meant Barbaro was totally knocked out and subsequently had to recover in a swimming pool and then get back on his feet in the stall.

Richardson, who performed the original surgery the day after the Preakness, was relieved and encouraged by what he saw.

"He's still not out of the woods," Richardson said. "But his leg looks excellent. The incision has healed well, and judging by the radiographs [X-rays], the graft is opacifying [taking]. Callus is forming nicely, and all of the implants look unchanged."

Several weeks ago, Richardson had said Barbaro could do everything right and the injury, which had been repaired with a long plate and 27 screws, still might not heal.

Now, Richardson seems satisfied everything is progressing as it should inside the cast.

Said Sweeney: "I saw him before he went to have the cast changed and after he came back. And he looked just the same, except he has a clean, new cast. His outlook is still guarded, but less so."

Just as before, Barbaro will be assessed multiple times daily and another new cast will be fitted when needed. Until then, he will remain in his stall in the intensive care unit.

Meanwhile, Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto told the Maryland Racing Commission he has watched the early part of the Preakness tape frame by frame and it appears one of Brother Derek's front legs made contact with Barbaro's right rear leg just before he was injured.

"We can't say 100 percent because it is in shadow," Raffetto said. "But it appears [a few strides out of the gate, when] Brother Derek is fully extending his front leg in the same path behind Barbaro, his front leg hits Barbaro's right hind leg and it is at that moment Barbaro's head comes up."

With that information, chairman John McDaniel said the commission will review the tapes and consider enhancing them to determine what happened Preakness Day.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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