Palmar foot pain is a common cause of lameness. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has the potential to detect damage in all tissues of the equine foot, but an understanding of the differences in magnetic resonance (MR) images between feet from horses with and without palmar foot pain is required. This study aimed to describe MR findings in feet from horses with no history of foot-related lameness, and to compare these with MR findings in horses with lameness improved by palmar digital local analgesia.
Thirty-four limbs from horses euthanized with a clinical diagnosis of navicular syndrome (lameness >2 months duration, positive response to palmar digital nerve blocks and absence of other forelimb problems) (Group L), and 25 feet from age-matched horses with no history of foot pain (Group N) were examined. For each anatomic structure, MR signal intensity and homogeneity, size, definition of margins, and relationships with other structures were described. Alterations in MR signal intensity and homogeneity were graded as mild, moderate, or severe and compared between Groups L and N.
Results revealed that there were significant differences in MR images between Groups N and L. Multiple moderate–severe MR signal changes were present in 91% of limbs from Group L and moderate (none were graded severe) in 27% of limbs from Group N. In most Group L limbs, more than three structures and frequently six to eight structures were abnormal. Concomitant abnormalities involved most frequently the deep digital flexor tendon, distal sesamoidean impar ligament, navicular bone, collateral sesamoidean ligament, and navicular bursa (with significant associations in severity grade between these structures), sometimes with involvement of the distal interphalangeal joint and/or its collateral ligaments.
It was concluded that findings on MR images were different between horses with and without foot pain, and that pain localized to the foot was associated with MR changes in a variety of structures, indicating that damage to several structures may occur concurrently and that MR imaging was useful for evaluation of foot pain.