Supplement to Support Post-Surgical Joint Health (AAEP 2012)

A research team from the Nutraceutical Alliance Inc. shared some good news for owners of horses with osteoarthritis at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention: A nutritional supplement fed immediately after osteochondral fragment removal surgery could help reduce the amount of post-surgical inflammation in the joint.

Wendy Pearson, PhD, president of the Nutraceutical Alliance Inc., presented study results at the convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

Pearson explained that researchers had previously shown that a joint supplement—"4CYTE," produced by the Australian company Interpath Pty Ltd.—that contains a patented plant extract inhibited prostaglandin E2 (PGE2, a chemical produced by the body that is involved in inflammation and in pain perception) production in horses with experimentally induced joint inflammation. In the current study researchers evaluated the effect of the supplement in horses with articular inflammation and/or joint damage due to osteoarthritis fragments in the knee or fetlock.

The team hypothesized that including the supplement in affected horses’ diets would "reduce synovial fluid PGE2, nitric oxide (both indicators of pain and inflammation), and glycosaminoglycan (an indicator of cartilage breakdown), while improving clinical signs of articular inflammation in these horses," Pearson said.

They studied 15 horses undergoing surgery to remove abnormal pieces of cartilage, called osteochondral fragments, from the surface of either the knee or fetlock joint. Horses received either 21 grams of the supplement per day, starting immediately after surgery, or they acted as controls and received an equal amount of a placebo supplement.

Pearson said the team analyzed horses' synovial fluid before and after supplementation, specifically assessing PGE2, nitric oxide, and glycosaminoglycan levels; they also took radiographs of the affected joints and performed lameness examinations.

The researchers found: 

  • 45 days after surgery, synovial fluid PGE2 levels were significantly lower in horses consuming the supplement;
  • No significant decline in synovial fluid PGE2 in horses treated with surgery alone;
  • 60% of control horses had radiographic evidence of periosteal reactions and/or osteophytes (indicators of arthritic changes), whereas only 35% of horses on the supplement exhibited these changes; and
  • No difference between treatment and control groups in synovial fluid nitric oxide or glycosaminoglycan levels, radiographic findings, or lameness grade.

"These data support previously published experimental evidence of an inhibitory effect of 4CYTE on synovial fluid PGE2," she concluded. "4CYTE is an excellent proactive supplement for supporting postoperative joint health in horses. The data from the current study add to an already impressive portfolio of research demonstrating efficacy and safety of 4CYTE in horses."

Pearson said that 4CYTE is available through veterinarians in the United States and Canada.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.