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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • trabecular bone;
  • subchondral bone;
  • metacarpophalangeal joint;
  • MRI

Summary

Reasons for performing study: To determine the reliability of 2 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems for detection of cartilage and bone lesions of the equine fetlock.

Objectives: To test the hypotheses that lesions in cartilage, subchondral and trabecular bone of the equine fetlock verified using histopathology can be detected on high- and low-field MR images with a low incidence of false positive or negative results; that low-field images are less reliable than high-field images for detection of cartilage lesions; and that combining results of interpretation from different pulse sequences increases detection of cartilage lesions.

Methods: High- and low-field MRI was performed on 19 limbs from horses identified with fetlock lameness prior to euthanasia. Grading systems were used to score cartilage, subchondral and trabecular bone on MR images and histopathology. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated for images.

Results: High-field T2*-weighted gradient echo (T2*W-GRE) and low-field T2-weighted fast spin echo (T2W-FSE) images had high sensitivity but low specificity for detection of cartilage lesions. All pulse sequences had high sensitivity and low–moderate specificity for detection of subchondral bone lesions and moderate sensitivity and moderate–high specificity for detection of trabecular bone lesions (histopathology as gold standard). For detection of lesions of trabecular bone low-field T2*W-GRE images had higher sensitivity and specificity than T2W-FSE images.

Conclusions: There is high likelihood of false positive results using high- or low-field MRI for detection of cartilage lesions and moderate–high likelihood of false positive results for detection of subchondral bone lesions compared with histopathology. Combining results of interpretation from different pulse sequences did not increase detection of cartilage lesions. MRI interpretation of trabecular bone was more reliable than cartilage or subchondral bone in both MR systems.

Potential relevance: Independent interpretation of a variety of pulse sequences may maximise detection of cartilage and bone lesions in the fetlock. Clinicians should be aware of potential false positive and negative results.