Hidden within the wings of the os pedis, and protected as it is by its tendinous covering and the yielding substance of the plantar cushion, the navicular bone is even less liable to fracture than either of the other bones of the foot.
The most common cause of fracture of the navicular is that of stabs or deep pricks in the region of the point of the frog (see p. 216). Following that, the next most common cause is violent injury. We thus find the navicular bone fractured, together with one or both of the other bones of the foot, when the foot is run over by a heavy vehicle. One such case is reported by Mr. J.H. Carter, F.R.C.V.S., where the horse's foot was run over by a tram-engine, in which the os pedis and the navicular were fractured in several places.[A] A further case is on record where a sharp blow on the front of the hoof was the cause. In this case the os pedis and other structures were uninjured, but the navicular bone was fractured into three large, and about half a dozen small, pieces.[B]
[Footnote A: Veterinary Journal, vol. xxxi., p. 246.]
[Footnote B: Veterinarian for 1857, p. 73.]
Fractures of the navicular may occur, however, in which history of a prick or of a violent injury is absent. See reported case below.
As with fractures of the os pedis and the os coronae, so with this exact diagnosis is difficult - we may say almost impossible. With a history of violent injury, however, some little regard may be paid to a continued heat and tenderness of the foot, and a distinct inclination on the part of the animal to go on the toe. Even when the fracture is the result of a prick, and the bone is plainly felt with the probe, we still cannot be positive as to fracture.
Reported Case. - 'The animal was a Hungarian, a troop-horse in the 3rd Hussars (G. 15). On November 22, 1881, on the march from Norwich to Aldershot, the horse suddenly made a violent stumble, very nearly coming on to his knees. The rider declared that he put his foot on a stone. The accident caused great lameness in the near fore-leg, and the horse had to be led the remainder of that day's march. On the following day he was also led; but, after going some sixteen or eighteen miles, he was so lame that he was left at the nearest billet (in Edmonton). He was here attended by Mr. Stanley, M.R.C.V.S., of Edmonton, who pronounced it a case of navicular disease. I first saw the animal on December 1, 1881, and quite agreed with Mr. Stanley that it was a case of foot lameness, though, from the horse's former history, I could not think it a case of ordinary navicular disease. I diagnosed it a case of fracture, without displacement, either of the os coronae or the navicular bone, but was more inclined to the former than the latter. This was after a full hour's examination. I failed to find any heat in, or any flinching by manipulation of, any part of the limb; but, in walking, the horse was excessively lame, going on the toe, and, indeed, trying if possible to keep the foot entirely off the ground.
'On December 6 the horse was sent on to Aldershot by rail. He was then walking better, though still very lame. My only treatment for a short time was to apply cold water constantly to the coronet and foot. For two hours daily this was done by a hose, the remainder of the time by a cold swab. On December 14 I applied a strong blister over the coronet, reaching up to the fetlock. This was washed off about the end of December. The horse was then not nearly so lame. I then resumed the cold-water treatment, and he got gradually better, and was sent to light duty on February 18, 1882. He, however, only attended one field-day, and was taken into the Horse Infirmary again on March 8, very lame. Again, there was an entire absence of heat or pain on pressure, but the same action, viz., going on the toe. I forgot to remark that he always pointed the toe of the affected leg when standing in the stable, and this symptom continued. I put him under the cold-water treatment for a short time, and about the middle of March again applied a strong blister over the coronet up to the fetlock. This was washed off about the end of the month, and was succeeded by the cold water again. Towards the end of April there was no improvement at all, and I applied for permission to destroy the horse. This was carried out on April 27, at the recommendation of Mr. Gudgin, I.V.S., Aldershot, and a Board of veterinary surgeons.
'On making the post-mortem examination I first thought the bone was only partly fractured or cracked, but on manipulating it, after its being in hot water a short time, I saw the fracture was complete.'[A]
[Footnote A: S.W. Wilson, M.R.C.V.S., A.V.D., Veterinary Journal, vol. xv., p. 12.]
Treatment of Fractures of the Bones of the Foot. - It will be seen at once that in most cases anything in the way of bandaging is well-nigh useless. When the os coronae is fractured, however, a little more may be added to the natural rigidity of the parts by enclosing the region of the pastern and the foot in a plaster-of-Paris bandage. The main treatment, however, in every case, will be a continual use of the slings for at least seven to eight weeks, by that means compelling the animal to give to the injured parts the necessary amount of rest.
With fracture of the os pedis, when such is caused by pricks and complicated by a flow of pus, then attention must be given to removal of the displaced piece of bone. The pus track is to be followed up with the searcher, sufficient horn removed with the knife, and the broken piece of bone removed with a scalpel and a pair of strong forceps, the operation to be afterwards followed up by antiseptic dressings to the opening. Until this is done the wound refuses to heal.
Fracture of the navicular bone, if in any way diagnosed with certainty, offers us an almost hopeless case, for it appears to be a commonly reported fact that attempts at reunion are rare. This, in all probability, is due to the pressure put upon it every now and again, when the animal's weight presses the bone between the os coronae and the os pedis above and the perforans tendon below. Even should reunion take place, the resulting callus, interfering as it does with the movements of the perforans, leaves us a case of incurable lameness. When the fracture is complicated by the formation of pus, as in the case of prick, then the case, with the attendant purulent synovitis and arthritis, is even more hopeless still.
Diagnosis of fracture of either of the bones of the foot is, as we have said before, extremely difficult. It so happens, therefore, in those cases caused by violent blows, that anything approaching an accurate opinion cannot be given until some months after the injury. After some time we are met with unmistakable changes in the form of the foot, and are able to assume that the persisting lameness is due to pressure of a reparative callus within the hoof. In such cases the only treatment of any use is that of neurectomy.