Suspensory ligament damage is a major cause of lameness and loss of use in sport horses. Natural healing of the suspensory ligament is often slow and of poor quality and results in long layoffs and a predisposition to reinjury. Many different therapeutic approaches have been used to promote ligament healing. However, none of these techniques have proven to be effective by double-blind or clinical studies. The results of anecdotal reports on ligament splitting, hyaluronic acid injections, iodine injections, blistering, pin firing, acupuncture, cold laser, rest, and rehabilitation have not been encouraging.
For the past 6 years, we have used a novel biological approach to facilitate suspensory ligament healing. This approach involves the intralesional injection of autologous stem cells and associated bone marrow components to stimulate natural ligament regeneration.
The use of autologous bone marrow to enhance bone healing is not new and has been described in numerous veterinary and human orthopedic texts. Percutaneous injection of bone marrow for ligament healing was reported in 1987 by Pierce of Amgen, Inc. Pierce reported that platelet derived
growth factor and transforming growth factor b in bone marrow cells enhanced wound healing in rats by stimulating collagen synthesis.