Barbaro's Injuries Catastrophic

Updated

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I love horse racing. It’s a beautiful and amazing sport. When I saw Barbaro break down at the beginning of yesterday’s race, I had a feeling something very bad had happened.

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was in surgery Sunday fighting for his life a day after breaking his right rear leg in three places at the Preakness, and the colt’s surgeon said he’s never worked on so many catastrophic injuries to one horse.

Dr. Dean Richardson was operating at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center for Large Animals and said the procedure could take several hours.

Corinne Sweeney, a veterinarian and the executive hospital director, said the horse was still in surgery about five hours after it began but that the procedure was near completion. She didn’t give any other details on the horse’s condition.

It is very hard for a horse to recover from just one broken bone, let alone three.

“You do not see this severe injury frequently because the fact is most horses that suffer this typically are put down on the race track,” said Richardson, the chief of surgery for the center. “This is rare

“It’s about as bad as it could be,” he added. “The main thing going for the horse is a report that his skin was not broken at the time of injury. It’s a testament to the care given to the team of doctors on the track and (jockey) Mr. Prado on the racetrack.”

With no word on Barbaro’s condition nearly four hours after surgery began, the normally empty New Bolton Center was swarming with media awaiting an update. There had been no sightings of trainer Michael Matz or owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, though the Jacksons reportedly were at the center for the start of surgery before leaving.

The Jacksons live less than 10 miles away on their farm in West Grove, outside Philadelphia in the horse country of Chester County. Now the fate of their horse could be determined down the road.

Richardson outlined Barbaro’s medical problems: a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. The fetlock joint _ the ankle _ was dislocated.

“The aspects of the surgery will be dictated slightly by what we find,” Richardson said. “But the bottom line is we will attempt to perform a fusion of that joint and to stabilize it and make it comfortable enough for him to walk on.”

This is a great loss to horse racing.

Update: Good news. The surgery went well and Barbaro is recovering:

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. – Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro underwent more than five hours of surgery Sunday to repair three broken bones in his right rear leg and afterward “practically jogged back to the stall,” the colt’s surgeon said.

At this moment “he is extremely comfortable in the leg,” said Dr. Dean Richardson, who stressed before the marathon procedure that he’s never worked on so many catastrophic injuries to one horse.

Barbaro sustained “life-threatening injuries” Saturday when he broke bones above and below his right rear ankle at the start of the Preakness Stakes. His surgery began around 1 p.m. Sunday at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center for Large Animals.

Although the operation was successful, Richardson warned that Barbaro was far from home free. He said it was still “a coin toss” that the strapping 3-year-old colt would be able to survive what had been termed catastrophic injuries.

Update II: Here’s more information on Barbaro’s recovery:

(CBS/AP) Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was “a far brighter horse” Monday morning, said the veterinarian who operated on him Sunday.

“He’s acting much more like a thoroughbred colt should act. He’s trying to bite people. He’s moving around his stall vigorously right now,” Dr. Dean Richardson, Chief of Surgery at the New Bolton Center for Large Animals, said on CBS News’ The Early Show. “And probably most importantly, there’s several mares in the intensive care unit and he’s very interested in them. That’s an excellent sign.”

[snip]

Barbaro sustained a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. The fetlock joint — the ankle — was dislocated.

Richardson said the pastern bone was shattered in “20-plus pieces.”

The bones were put in place to fuse the joint by inserting a plate and 23 screws to repair damage so severe that most horses would not be able to survive it.

“All of the injuries that Barbaro had are injuries that we deal with very commonly. It’s just he had a combination of these injuries and that’s what made it a little bit unusual,” Richardson said. “He had an unusual combination of very severe injuries”.

[snip]

Horses are often euthanized after serious leg injuries because circulation problems and deadly disease can arise if they are unable to distribute weight on all fours.

There is “absolutely no chance of this horse racing again. There’s none,” Richardson said on The Early Show. “We’re salvaging him as a breeding animal. The idea is to try and make him comfortable enough that he could basically go to a stud farm and breed mares. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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