Reasons for performing the study: Therapeutic options for stringhalt in horses are limited, whereas medical experiences with botulinum toxin type A (Botox) have been positive. To evaluate its effectiveness in horses, surface electromyography (sEMG) signals before and after injection need to be quantified.
Hypothesis: Treatment of healthy ponies and cases with Botox should reduce muscle activity in injected muscles and reduce spastic movements without adverse side effects.
Methods: Unilaterally, the extensor digitorum longus, extensor digitorum lateralis and lateral vastus muscles of 6 healthy mature Shetland ponies and 2 talented Dutch Warmblood dressage horses with stringhalt were injected (maximum of 400 iu per pony and 700 iu per case; 100 iu in 5 ml NaCl divided into 5 injections) with Botox under needle EMG guidance. Surface EMG data were evaluated using customised software, and in the individuals gait was analysed using Proreflex. Statistical analysis was performed using mixed models and independent sample t test (P<0.05).
Results: Surface EMG signals were quantified using customised software. The area under the curve (integrated EMG) in time was used as variable. It became significantly reduced in injected muscles after injection of Botox in normal ponies (P<0.05). This effect was present from Day 1 until Day 84 after injection. In the 2 cases, after injection of 3 muscles, the integrated EMG in time became significantly reduced in all 3 muscles. Kinematic measurements confirmed reduction of frequency and amplitude of hyperflexing or hyperabducting strides of the affected hindlimbs. The duration of effect was also seen in the cases until around 12 weeks after injection.
Conclusions and potential relevance: After EMG guided injections of Botox, sEMG signals recorded from injected muscle were reduced, which proves this to be a useful tool in statistically evaluating a treatment effect. The positive results of this pilot study encourage further research with a larger group of clinical cases.