Did you know that gold has medicinal properties? Past studies have indicated that gold, particularly in the form of micro-implants in the joints of humans and dogs, might alleviate pain and inflammation from arthritis.
But so far, no one has determined whether it’s safe to use gold within the joint of a horse. And that has to be determined before additional studies can be conducted to determine whether gold could be a viable—or even preferable—alternative to existing treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and intra-articular steroid injections.
That’s what a group of researchers from the Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland set out to discover. Specifically, they studied the use of Berlock Micro-Implants, containing 10 milligrams of gold, mixed with hyaluronic acid to aid the even distribution of the gold.
The research team used eight mares and one gelding from the Swiss Institute of Equine Medicine. All nine were healthy and showed no signs of carpal (knee joint) abnormalities, lameness or pain. Each horse was injected with the BMI-HA treatment in one knee joint and with HA alone in the opposite knee as a control.
The team evaluated a number of outcome measures, including lameness, carpal temperature, swelling, joint range of motion, synovial lining and reactions to joint palpation. Horses had both knees evaluated before treatment and periodically over the following three months.
Some horses showed mild to moderate degrees of lameness or swelling during the first week after treatment and after arthroscopy. That’s not unusual for horses undergoing these procedures. However, on Day 90, all nine horses were sound. No adverse effects were attributed to the gold micro-implants, either on a localized or system-wide basis. The same results held true during follow-ups on the horses over a three-year period.
From these results, the researchers concluded that gold micro-implant treatment is safe. That paves the way for future clinical trials to determine how well the treatment might work to relieve pain in arthritic equine joints.
This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.