Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Bone: internal fixation - pins and nails

Contributor(s): Stephen Adams, Bud G E Fackelman, Chris Whitton, Jarred Williams


  • Pins (various types) and interlocking nails are very infrequently used for internal fixation in horses, unlike in dogs, cats, and humans.
  • Pins are far more used for external fixation in horses.


  • External fixation, internal fixation of humeral, femoral (foal), and metacarpal/metatarsal fractures.
  • Increased compression and stability → improved healing rate/quality.
  • Very strong fixation against bending.
  • Increased expense.
  • Surgical expertise with technique and instrumentation.
  • Demanding technique which requires particularly good alignment for successful outcome and accessibility of medullary cavity for site other than joint surface.
  • Not suitable for most equine fractures. 

Technical problems

  • Accessibility of the intramedullary cavity for interlocking nail. 
  • Migration of pins.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Rossignol F, Vitte A & Boening J (2014) Use of a modified transfixation pin cast for treatment of comminuted phalangeal fractures in horses. Vet Surg 43 (1), 66-72 PubMed.
  • Radcliffe R M, Lopez M J, Turner T A et al (2001) An in vitro biomechanical comparison of interlocking nail constructs and double plating for fixation of diaphyseal femur fractures in immature horses. Vet Surg 30 (2), 179-190 PubMed.
  • Auer J A & Watkins J P (1996) Instrumentation and techniques in equine fracture fixation. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 12 (2), 283-302 PubMed.
  • Watkins J P (1990) Intramedullary interlocking nail fixation in foals - Effects on normal growth and development of the humerus. Vet Surg 19 (1), 80 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Auer JA (2012) Principles of Fracture Treatment. In: Equine Surgery. Eds: Auer J A & Stick J A. 4th edn. Elsevier, USA. pp 1047-1081.
  • Richardson D W (1990) Ulnar fractures Current Practice of Equine Surgery. Eds: White N A & Moore J N.  J B Lippincott, USA. pp 641-645.