Reasons for performing study: Associations between degree of ossification of the cartilages of the foot and injuries to other structures of the foot have been suggested, but have not been investigated by large scale studies.
Objectives: To describe the frequency of grade >3 ossification of the cartilages of the foot (possibly significant ossification, PSO), mediolateral symmetry of ossification and left-right symmetry between feet; and to investigate associations between PSO and injury of either the collateral ligaments (CLs) of the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint or the distal phalanx.
Hypotheses: Possibly significant ossification of the cartilages of the foot is associated with CL and distal phalanx injury. Distal phalanx injury is associated with a mediolateral difference in ossification grade of ≥2.
Methods: Horses were examined for lameness localised to the foot by perineural analgesia, and underwent radiographic and magnetic resonance imaging examinations. Age, breed, occupation, duration of lameness, lame(st) limb, primary cause of lameness, and presence or absence of CL injury were recorded. Dorsopalmar (dorsoplantar) radiographs were examined and ossification of the cartilages of the foot graded using a modification of a previously published scale.
Results: One foot from each of 462 horses was included for analysis. There was left-right symmetry of ossification between feet, and significant association between grades of each foot, with lateral ≥medial cartilages. Possibly significant ossification occurred in the maximally ossified cartilage in 59 (12.8%) feet. There were significant associations between PSO of the maximally ossified cartilage of the foot and injuries of both the CLs of the DIP joint and the distal phalanx. There was no association between distal phalanx injury and marked asymmetry of the ossified cartilages of the foot.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Extensively ossified cartilages of the foot are significantly associated with CL or distal phalanx injury. Markedly asymmetric ossification did not increase the likelihood of distal phalanx injury and should be considered at a prepurchase examination.