Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Fracture of Scapula or Point of Shoulder

The scapula is a plate of bone positioned on the side of the horse from the withers to the point of the shoulder, where it joins the upper arm bone (humerus) to form the shoulder joint.

Fractures of this area are rare and usually occur when a horse falls on its side at speed or runs into a wall or heavy fence at speed. A well placed kick from a pasture-mate can also cause fracture in this area.

These fractures can be difficult to diagnose. It can be impossible to x-ray this area with conventional x-ray equipment because of the huge mass of muscle and tissue at this level. Most x-ray generators are not powerful enough to penetrate. Ultrasound can be very useful though.

Treatment is usually conservative – long periods of rest. But this depends upon the specific nature of the fracture.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

Depends on the specific nature of the fracture and the intended use of the horse. Each fracture is unique. As with all fractures, important factors include involvement of a joint, characteristics of the fracture line, and involvement of other anatomic structures.

If the fracture involves the joint, the horse will likely be chronically lame at best. If the fracture does not involve the shoulder joint or biceps tendon, the horse is likely to be pasture sound at least with nothing more than stall confinement for 8 weeks.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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