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Keywords:

  • digital radiography;
  • equine metacarpus;
  • film-screen radiography;
  • lesion detection

Radiographic diagnosis of equine bone disease using digital radiography is prevalent in veterinary practice. However, the diagnostic quality of digital vs. conventional radiography has not been compared systematically. We hypothesized that digital radiography would be superior to film-screen radiography for detection of subtle lesions of the equine third metacarpal bone. Twenty-four third metacarpal bones were collected from horses euthanized for reasons other than orthopedic disease. Bones were dissected free of soft tissue and computed tomography was performed to ensure that no osseous abnormalities were present. Subtle osseous lesions were produced in the dorsal cortex of the third metacarpal bones, and the bones were radiographed in a soft tissue phantom using indirect digital and conventional radiography at standard exposures. Digital radiographs were printed onto film. Three Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Radiology evaluated the radiographs for the presence or absence of a lesion. Receiver operator characteristic curves were constructed, and the area under these curves were compared to assess the ability of the digital and film-screen radiographic systems to detect lesions. The area under the ROC curves for film-screen and digital radiography were 0.87 and 0.90, respectively (P=0.59). We concluded that the digital radiographic system was comparable to the film-screen system for detection of subtle lesions of the equine third metacarpal bone.