Structural variation of the distal condyles of the third metacarpal and third metatarsal bones in the horse



This study examined 3-dimensional (3D) distribution of sectors with contrasting density in the equine third metacarpal (McIII) and third metatarsal (MtIII) bones with a view to explaining the aetiology of distal condylar fractures. Macroradiography and computed tomographic (CT) imaging were used in the nondestructive study of bones obtained from horses, most of which were Thoroughbreds in race training. Distal condylar regions of McIII and MtIII were also studied in microradiographs of 100 μm thick mediolateral sections cut perpendicular to the dorsal and palmar/plantar articular surfaces. Qualitative and quantitative results from all methods used (radiography, CT and microradiographic stereology) demonstrated a densification (sclerosis) of subchondral bone located in the palmar/plantar regions of the medial and lateral condyles of both McIII and MtIII. Substantial density gradients between the denser condyles and the subchondral bone of the sagittal groove were shown to equate with anatomical differences in loading intensity during locomotion. It is hypothesised that such differences in bone density results in stress concentration at the palmar/plantar aspect of the condylar grooves, which may predispose to fracture.