Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, recovering from a broken rear right leg, underwent another unexpected cast change and operation late Saturday in an effort to clean out an infection that chief surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson said could be "potentially serious."
After going six weeks with just two cast changes, Barbaro has now had three new casts in the past seven days.
After spending a long night with Barbaro in the Intensive Care Unit at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, trying to help the horse through his distress, Richardson decided to replace the original plate and many of the screws he had inserted May 21, the day after Barbaro had shattered his leg in the Preakness.
"Barbaro had developed some discomfort and a consistently elevated temperature so we believed it was in his best interest to remove the hardware and thoroughly clean the site of the infection," Richardson said. "We also applied a longer cast on that leg for additional support."
Richardson said in a release that the main fracture is healing well, but the pastern joint that doctors are attempting to fuse continues to be of concern. And Richardson said he further stabilized the joint with new implants and a fresh bone graft.
"The recovery process from anesthesia took longer with this surgery, but Barbaro is now back in his stall in the Intensive Care Unit," Richardson said. "He is receiving pain medication, antibiotics and other supportive care."
Richardson said Barbaro is being closely monitored in the ICU.
Yesterday evening Barbaro's trainer Michael Matz said the horse appears to be doing well.
"He looks fine," Matz said by phone as he left the facility. "He's on all four legs and, hopefully, that's the way he will stay. Everything was going very smoothly and it's always a setback when he has to go through something like this.
"Dean wasn't happy with how comfortable he was and it has really been a very long, trying week for Barbaro and for Dean."
Last Monday, the cast was changed, two bent screws were replaced and three others added to strengthen the pastern joint. But sensing Barbaro was uncomfortable in the new cast, Richardson replaced it Wednesday and discovered a slight infection on the sole of Barbaro's left hind hoof, treated it topically and applied a new protective shoe to protect the horse from developing laminitis (a painful inflammation) in that foot.
Then Saturday, the horse was in obvious discomfort and with temperature and Richardson decided on the latest procedure.
Last night, Matz said the infection in Barbaro's left foot is responding well and is healing.