Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Carl A. Kirker-Head

Orthopedic and Large Animal Surgery, Bone Regrowth and Remodeling

General Large Animal Surgery

Dr. Carl Kirker-Head is an orthopedic surgeon, equine sports medicine expert, and associate professor of large animal medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. As the Marilyn M. Simpson Chair in Equine Medicine, his research and clinical interests range from internal fixation and corrective farriery to the use of pharmaceuticals. As the director of the Orthopedic Research Laboratory,Dr. Kirker-Head's research interests include bone, tendon, ligament, and cartilage growth, grafting and remodeling. He is also involved in research on equine skeletal tissue engineering, orthopedic device development, as well as less invasive (catheter-based) interventions.

In addition to his research, Dr. Kirker-Head also lectures on topics ranging from surgery to anatomy, as well as courses on the equine racing industry to veterinary students at the Cummings School. He also leads the clinical surgery rotation at the Hospital for Large Animals, as well as serving as a facilitator of the Problem Based Learning course.

Dr. Kirker-Head enjoys being at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for numerous reasons. He takes pride in his companion colleagues and staff, the beautiful campus, the intellectual diversity of the students, his patients, and his proximity to the best medical research companies and institutions in the world. He enjoys the New England and the cross-campus opportunities, as he works with colleagues on Tufts' Medford and the Boston campuses.


  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (Vet MB) - University of Cambridge, England - 1983
  • Master of Arts (MA) - University of Cambridge, England - 1984

Board Certification

  • American College of Veterinary Surgeons
  • European College of Veterinary Surgeons
  1. Jenner F,Kirker-Head CA. Core decompression of the Equine Navicular Bone – an in vivo study on healthy horses. Vet Surg 2011; 40:151-62.
  2. Jenner, F, Kirker-Head CA. Core decompression of the Equine Navicular Bone – an in vitro biomechanical study. Vet Surg 2011; 40:163-70.
  3. Kirker-Head CA, Schwoegler M. “A characterization of Farrier Services at Private Equine Surgical Hospitals.” Equine Veterinary Education 2010; 22:513–518.
  4. Kirker-Head CA, Krane G. “A characterization of Farrier Services at United States Veterinary Teaching Hospitals”. Equine Veterinary Education 2010; 22:519–525.
  5. Abuja GA, García-López JM, Doran R, Kirker-Head CA. Pararectal cystotomy for urolith removal in nine horses. Vet Surg 2010; 39:654-9.
  6. Evans CH, Liu FJ, Glatt P, Hoyland JA, Kirker-Head CA, Walsh A, Betz O, Wells W, Betz V, Porter RM, Saad FA, Gerstenfeld LC, Einhorn TA, Harris MB, and Vrahas MS. Use of genetically modified muscle and fat grafts to repair defects in bone and cartilage. Europe Cell Materials 2009; 18:96-111.
  7. Kleine L, Solano M, Rusckowski M, Hunt K, Johnson K, Kirker-Head CA. MA, Evaluation of 99mTechnitium-EDTA-Biotin as a Soft Tissue Imaging Agent in Horses. Am J Vet Res 2008; 69:639-46.
  8. Wang Y, Rudym DD, Walsh A, Abrahamsen L, Kim HJ, Kim JS, Kirker-Head CA, Kaplan, DL. In vivo degradation of three dimensional silk fibroin scaffolds. Biomaterials 2008; 29:3415-3428.

Research Interests by Area

Regenerative Medicine
  • Stem cell applications for musculoskeletal disease.
Spontaneous Animal Disease Models
  • Fracture repair, tendon and ligament injury, stem cell treatment, developmental orthopedic disease, laminitis

Research Interests by Organ System and Disease

Bone and Tissue Repair and Regeneration
  • Bone growth, remodeling, repair, inductive and mitotic proteins and bone and soft tissue mechanics, orthopedic device development and testing. Orthopedics; musculoskeletal, implants, bandaging; limb dynamics

Major Specialized Equipment

Instron Model 8511 servohydraulic materials testing device; a Toshiba Aquillon 16 slice CT; a Siemens Symphony 1.5 Tesla MRI; an Hologic QDR4500 DXA scanner; a digital high- resolution gamma camera (IS2 NuCamma Enhanced Technologies, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX); digitized fluoroscopy (Shimadzu RS-110 Remote radiology/fluoroscopy room with UD150L 630MA 50 KW); and a Kistler model Z4852 piezoelectric quartz crystal force plate Gait Analysis System. Video-endoscopy, a high speed treadmill, comprehensive surgical facilities, a media center, and clinical pathology and pathology facilities complement the environment.

Investigative Interests

  • Bone and cartilage growth, remodeling, repair, and grafting
  • Bone inductive and mitotic proteins
  • Tissue regeneration
  • Surgical and other musculo-skeletal disease models
  • Musculoskeletal biomechanics
  • Ligament and tendon physiology and response to injury
  • Orthopedic device development
  • Per-cutaneous treatment of cardiac disease; animal models of cardiac disease
  • Intervential cardiology

On-Going Studies

  • High-speed treadmill characterization of equine limb motion in the normal and fatigued state. HOSSO, Inc. Determining what abnormal limb motion occurs with onset of muscle fatigue.
  • "Soft tissue reconstruction using Silk Biomaterials". Department of Defense/Army/Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Seeking ways of improving soft tissue regeneration following injury.
  • "XROMM characterization of equine lower limb motion". AERI. Using a novel imaging technology to characterize lower limb motion to within 0.08 mm.
  • "Bone Regeneration Via Silk Biomaterials" National Institutes of Health funded. Assessment of natural silk as facilitator of new bone formation and delivery vehicle for bone inducing proteins and bone forming stem cells

Specialized Capabilities or Interests

  • Equine musculoskeletal surgery
  • Equine general surgery
  • Arthroscopic surgery
  • Implantology
  • Medical device and drug testing
  • Disease and injury models
  • Advanced imaging modalities, including MRI, CT, DXA, nuclear medicine, XROMM, high-speed video