Magnetic resonance imaging and histological findings in the proximal aspect of the suspensory ligament of forelimbs in nonlame horses




Reasons for performing study: Detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and histological appearances of the proximal aspect of the suspensory ligament (PSL) in the forelimb of nonlame horses have not been previously documented.

Objectives: 1) to describe detailed anatomy of the PSL, 2) describe high- and low-field MRI and histological appearances of the PSL and surrounding structures in the forelimb of horses with no carpal or proximal metacarpal pain, 3) assess the relationship between age, breed, gender, height, bodyweight and MRI findings and 4) describe the histological appearance of the PSL and compare this with MRI findings.

Methods: High- and low-field MR images of the PSL and related structures from 30 cadaver limbs of nonlame horses were analysed subjectively and objectively. Univariable and multivariable linear regression analyses were used to assess the association of age, breed, gender, height and bodyweight with MRI findings. Histological and MRI findings of the PSL of 9 limbs were compared subjectively.

Results: The collagenous tissue of the PSL had low to intermediate signal intensity depending on the pulse sequence. There was a large variation among horses in the amount, shape and signal intensity of the muscle and adipose tissue within the PSL. Comparison of MR images with histological slides revealed that the high signal intensity areas corresponded to adipose tissue and intermediate signal intensity areas to muscle tissue. The medial lobe of the PSL had a smaller cross sectional area (CSA) than the lateral lobe; there was a positive association between CSA of the PSL and both horse height and bodyweight (P<0.001).

Conclusions and potential relevance: The large variability in the MRI appearance of the PSL in nonlame horses should be borne in mind when interpreting MR images of lame horses.