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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • lameness;
  • radiology;
  • nuclear scintigraphy;
  • fatigue fracture;
  • stress fracture

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Previous descriptions of incomplete longitudinal fractures and fatigue injury of the proximopalmar aspect of the third metacarpal bone (McIII) have focused on diagnostic imaging findings, especially in racehorses.

Objectives: To document the case details, clinical features, response to diagnostic analgesia, diagnostic imaging findings and follow-up data in a large group of horses with an incomplete longitudinal fracture or fatigue injury of the proximopalmar medial aspect of the McIII.

Materials and methods: Horses were included in the study if pain was localised to the proximopalmar aspect of the metacarpal region, with radiological evidence of an incomplete longitudinal fracture or generalised increased radiopacity in the proximopalmar medial aspect of the McIII, or focal increased radiopharmaceutical uptake (IRU) in the proximopalmar aspect of the McIII. Age, breed, gender, height, bodyweight, work discipline, work history, duration of lameness, clinical signs and responses to diagnostic analgesia were recorded. Radiographic and scintigraphic images were assessed subjectively and objectively.

Results: There were 55 horses representing a broad spectrum of ages and work disciplines, 73% of which had radiological abnormalities. The majority had no localising clinical signs, although 73% of horses with radiological abnormalities showed a characteristic pattern of lameness. Lameness was generally worse in straight lines than in circles. Increased radiopharmaceutical uptake ranged from mild to intense in the lame limb; 14% of nonlame limbs had mild IRU. Of horses for which long-term follow-up was available, 98% returned to full athletic function.

Conclusions and potential relevance: Incomplete longitudinal fractures and fatigue injury of the proximopalmar medial aspect of the McIII may occur in horses of many types and sports disciplines, and are not confined to immature performance horses. They should be considered an important differential diagnosis for proximal metacarpal region pain.