Reasons for performing study: To evaluate intra- and interobserver variability in ultrasonographic measurements of the proximal aspect of the suspensory ligament (PSL) in the horse.
Hypothesis: A minimum difference of ≥20% is required to differentiate reliably between physiological and pathological alterations related to dimensions.
Materials and methods: Two operators examined the PSL in all 4 limbs of 14 horses twice using different techniques and different probes with and without standoff pads. Measurements were taken from the longitudinal and transverse images. Inter- and intraoperator variability was evaluated using agreement indices (AI) and the 95% limits of agreement (LOA).
Results: On the longitudinal scan the mean inter- and intraoperator AIs for dorsopalmar/-plantar thickness were both ≥0.89 and the 95% LOA were within target values for almost all intra- and interoperator comparisons. Similar mean AIs and 95% LOA were calculated for the dorsopalmar/-plantar thickness on the transverse image. For lateromedial width, cross-sectional area and circumference on the transverse scan, the mean inter- and intraoperator AIs ranged between 0.81 and 0.95 and the 95% LOA were higher than target values regardless of the imaging technique used. In general, better values for AIs and 95% LOA were achieved in the fore- compared with the hindlimb.
Conclusion and clinical relevance: Acceptable precision was identified within and between operators only for the dorsopalmar/-plantar thickness in longitudinal and in transverse scanning directions. For the lateromedial width, cross-sectional area and circumference, a relatively large variability was identified. This aspect has to be considered if these parameters are to be used for objective measurement of the PSL from the transverse ultrasound image.