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Surgical Procedures

What is a Diplomate?
The term "ACVS Diplomate" refers to a veterinarian who has been board certified in veterinary surgery.

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Arthroscopy in Horses

The term "ACVS Diplomate" refers to a veterinarian who has been board certified in veterinary surgery. Only veterinarians who have successfully completed the certification requirements of the ACVS are Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and have earned the right to be called specialists in veterinary surgery.

Your ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon completed a three-year residency program, met specific training and caseload requirements, performed research and had research published. This process was supervised by ACVS Diplomates, ensuring consistency in training and adherence to high standards. After completing the residency program, the individual passed a rigorous examination. Only then did your veterinary surgeon earn the title of ACVS Diplomate.

Overview/Description of the Procedure: 

Arthroscopy (or “scoping a joint”) is a technique to perform surgery on joints, tendon sheaths, and bursas using small incisions (less than 1 cm).  This is done with a specialized camera and instruments. A narrow, rigid instrument called an arthroscope is placed through a small incision to look inside of joints, tendon sheaths, and bursas. The image is transmitted to a camera for viewing on a TV monitor.  Specially designed surgical instruments are passed through separate small incisions to assist in the surgery.

Conditions Commonly Treated Using Procedure: 

  • Bone chips/chip fractures (Figure 1)
  • OCD lesions (Figure 2)
  • Bone cysts (Figure 3A, 3B)
  • Arthritis
  • Soft tissue injuries
    • Tendon tears, ligament tears, meniscal tears, adhesions, synovial masses
  • Help reduce and repair intra-articular fractures (Figure 4)
  • Joint, tendon sheaths, or bursa infections (or “septic joints”)

Alternate Procedures/Techniques:

Prior to the use of arthroscopy, the above conditions would be treated by an “open” technique called an arthrotomy.  This was done by making large incisions into joints, tendon sheaths, or bursas.  Since arthroscopy has become more available, it is the treatment of choice for these conditions & typically arthrotomies are not recommended for most conditions in horses anymore.

Advantages: 
  • Smaller incisions vs. arthrotomies
  • Easier post-operative incision care
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Less lay-up time, quicker return to work
  • Improved prognosis
  • Some procedures can be done in the standing, sedated horse
Disadvantages: 
  • Not all surgeries can be done arthroscopically
  • Requires specialized equipment and facilities
  • Requires advanced training for the veterinary surgeon
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This Animal Health Topic was written by and reviewed by Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.  Any opinions stated in this article are not necessarily the official position of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The American College of Veterinary Surgeons recommends contacting an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon or your general veterinarian for more information about this topic.

To find an ACVS Diplomate, visit www.acvs.org/find-a-surgeon.