BANDAGING The Horse's DISTAL LIMB
Application of distal limb bandages can result in vascular disruption of underlying skin. Vascular disruption typically occurs in areas which experience:
Excessive pressure (such as under a tight bandage). If the pressure applied by the bandage exceeds capillary (blood vessel) pressure within the skin, then blood flow to this area will be compromised. This condition is known as "transient ischemia" (or a temporary diminution in blood supply) and can result in skin cell damage or death.
A dramatic change in pressure (such as along the top and bottom edges of a bandage). Altered bloodflow will occur in regions of varying pressure, even if the disparity is small. It is for this reason that we discourage wrapping a portion of the distal limb; the bandage should encompass the entire distal limb from the level of the lower carpus/ tarsus down to the foot.
Lesions typically occur on the front (dorsal aspect) and back (palmar/plantar aspect) of the distal limbs because in these areas the skin is being "squeezed" between the bandage and a firm underlying structure (i.e. the cannon bone on the front of the limb and the flexor tendons on the back of the limb). It is less common to observe evidence of improper bandaging along the medial (inside) and lateral (outside) aspects of the limb.
Common consequences of excessive bandage pressure include:
Associated limb swelling. Ironically, bandages are most often applied to address or prevent swelling of the limb(s). However, removal of excessively tight bandages can result in a pathophysiologic process known as reperfusion vasculitis, whereby vessels become inflamed upon the resumption of blood flow into the area. Vasculitis results in the leakage of protein into the surrounding interstitium and the ensuing development of edema. A "bandage bow" is a perfect example of this type of reaction.
White hairing. Melanocytes (cells which produce melanin) seem to be especially susceptible to compromised blood supply. Affected or dead melanocytes are no longer able to produce melanin (the pigment responsible for skin and hair color). White hairing which occurs pursuant to bandaging is congruous with melanocyte dysfunction or death.
Skin ulceration. In cases of severe bandage pressure, single or multiple layers of skin cells can be affected. Although evidence may not manifest initially, severe compromise of blood supply can eventually result in partial- or full-thickness skin lesions which must be surgically closed or left to heal via second intention.
For specific instructions on bandaging your horse, please contact our staff.