Barbaro endures further surgery

Exam for laminitis leads to procedure

Horse Racing

January 14, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

What began as an examination of Barbaro's left hind foot yesterday turned into more surgery for the Kentucky Derby winner, who continues to fight the complications of laminitis, a painful inflammation, during his recovery process.

Yesterday, Barbaro was placed under general anesthesia so Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., could fully examine the horse's laminitis-damaged left hind foot. Richardson found "another area of undermined hoof wall," and it was removed. He then added a cast to Barbaro's right hind leg for additional support.

These procedures followed a setback earlier last week that had been called "significant" by Richardson and Barbaro's personal veterinarian, Dr. Kathleen Anderson. Tuesday night, with Barbaro showing discomfort from a cast that was placed on his left rear hoof Jan. 3 to help straighten the coffin bone, Richardson removed the cast and an inside section of his hoof wall.

It was the first setback since Barbaro contracted laminitis in his left hind foot seven months ago. The laminitis eventually cost him nearly all of his hoof wall, which has been growing back slowly, if irregularly.

While Tuesday's setback was a surprise, yesterday's examination of Barbaro's hoof was planned, even if the ensuing surgery was not.

"While his condition was unchanged over the last two days, we were unable to fully assess his left hind foot with him in his stall," Richardson said. "In today's procedure, another area of undermined hoof wall was removed. The left hind deep digital flexor tendon was cut to help decrease the pull on the coffin bone by that tendon."

Richardson said in a statement from the University of Pennsylvania's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals that the tendon was previously cut in July, but added, "The tendon had healed and was pulling on the coffin bone, contributing to the malalignment of the coffin bone."

A cast was put back on Barbaro's right hind lower limb yesterday for support "because he has been more uncomfortable on his left hind."

"This is a very usual procedure in treating laminitis," said Dr. David Zipf, veterinarian for the Maryland Racing Commission. "You have to cut away abnormal growth. You can't let it keep regenerating; you have to stop it right now and start over.

"The unusual thing about the story of this horse is that he is a freak. And I mean that in a singular way. His appetite has never gone away. He keeps eating and drinking and looking at the fillies. That's not normal.

"What usually happens is a horse founders, goes off his feed, won't eat or drink and their kidneys begin to fail. Any other horse would have been put down weeks or months ago. That's what makes him so unusual and special. And that's why Dr. Richardson has said this is a day-to-day situation. There are no textbooks. It's all play by ear.

"But what's happening isn't unusual - that Barbaro is persisting through this is."

Barbaro went through another pool recovery without incident after the surgery. Richardson said the horse, now a 4-year-old, "continues to receive intensive management for his discomfort on the left hind foot" and remains in the intensive care unit at New Bolton, where he has been since shattering his right rear leg during the early moments of the Preakness on May 20.

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