• horse;
  • radiography;
  • metacarpus;
  • bone shape


Accuracy and limitations of a radiographic technique were established for measurement of metacarpal bone shape in horses. A radiographic index (RI) has been used to measure changes in third metacarpal (Mc3) bone shape in response to training in young racehorses. The aim of these experiments was to determine the effects of positioning of the radiographic equipment on RI measurements from lateromedial radiographs of a left ex vivo metacarpus. Repeatability of the RI measurement in left lateromedial and right mediolateral view Mc3s were evaluated. The width of the dorsal cortex (DC), palmar cortex (PC) and medulla (M) were measured at a position 25 mm distal to the nutrient foramen and the RI calculated where RI = [(DC+PC)/M] x [DC/PC]. The reference RI values were obtained from 12 standard lateromedial radiographs. Factors analysed included the optimum focus-object distance, the angle at which the x-ray machine was positioned, the distance of the cassette from the limb, and the horizontal angle and vertical tilt of the cassette. The RI values included within the confidence interval (mean ° 1.96 x s.d.) were considered sufficiently accurate. The optimum focus-object distance was 1 m. Accurate measurements were obtained when the cassette was held as close to the limb as possible with the horizontal angle not exceeding 5°. The x-ray machine needed to be orientated within 6° of the lateromedial plane. These findings suggest that the radiographic index can be used to measure Mc3 bone shape, providing there is accurate alignment of the x-ray machine, cassette, and limb, with respect to one another.