Patterns of scintigraphic uptake in the fetlock joint of Thoroughbred racehorses and the effect of increased radiopharmaceutical uptake in the distal metacarpal/tarsal condyle on performance

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Summary

Reasons for performing study: The effect of palmar osteochondral disease lesions on performance of Thoroughbred (TB) racehorses is unclear. There is a need to describe patterns of radiopharmaceutical uptake (IRU) in fetlock joints of TB racehorses and to evaluate post scintigraphy performance.

Hypotheses: IRU in the metacarpal (MC) and metatarsal (MT) condyles is more common than IRU in the parasagittal grooves and is associated with poorer post diagnosis performance than controls.

Methods: Location of IRU within the fetlock region was identified and graded subjectively in TB racehorses. Performance variables were determined from race records for horses with moderate/marked MC/MT condylar IRU (cases), other horses undergoing scintigraphy (scintigraphy controls) and age/sex matched controls from the last race in which a case participated (controls). Statistical analyses included quantile regression, Fisher's exact test, Kaplan-Meier survival curves, log-rank test and Cox regression.

Results: Metacarpal/MT condylar IRU was identified in 103/220 horses with only 3/220 having parasagittal IRU. Moderate/marked IRU was identified in the MC and MT condylar regions in 62 and 39 horses, respectively, with palmaromedial and plantarolateral IRU most common. Fore- and hindlimb cases had fewer starts, reduced earnings (P<0.001) and reduced earnings/start than controls respectively. Cases were more likely to return to racing later than controls following a rest period. Cases were older than scintigraphy controls.

Conclusions: In TB racehorses presenting for lameness MC/MT condylar IRU is the most common abnormality identified within the fetlock joint. Racehorses with moderate/marked condylar IRU have a shortened racing career, are less successful than age/sex matched controls and are older than other racehorses presented for scintigraphy.

Potential relevance: Overload of the MC/MT condyles is a common and significant problem in TB racehorses that is readily identified with scintigraphy. Scintigraphy of horses that are lame or performing poorly is less useful for screening for potential condylar fractures.

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