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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • navicular disease;
  • deep digital flexor tendon;
  • scintigraphy;
  • foot;
  • nerve blocks

Summary

It was hypothesised that in solar bone images of the front feet of clinically normal horses, or horses with lameness unrelated to the front feet, there would be less than a 10% difference in the ratio of uptake of radiopharmaceutical in either the region of the navicular bone, or the region of insertion of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT), compared to the peripheral regions of the distal phalanx. Nuclear scintigraphic examination of the front feet of 15 Grand Prix show jumping horses, all of which were free from detectable lameness, was performed using dorsal, lateral and solar images. The results were compared with the examinations of 53 horses with primary foot pain, 21 with foot pain accompanying another more severe cause of lameness and 49 with lameness or poor performance unrelated to foot pain. None of the horses with foot pain had radiological changes compatible with navicular disease. All the images were evaluated subjectively. The solar views were assessed quantitatively using regions of interest around the navicular bone, the region of insertion of the deep digital flexor tendon and the toe, medial and lateral aspects of the distal phalanx. In 97% of the feet of normal showjumpers, there was <10% variance of uptake of the radiopharmaceutical in the navicular bone, the region of insertion of the DDFT and the peripheral regions of the distal phalanx. There was a significant difference in uptake of radiopharmaceutical in the region of the navicular bone in horses with foot pain compared to normal horses. There was a large incidence of false positive results related to the region of insertion of the DDFT. Lateral pool phase images appeared more sensitive in identifying potentially important DDFT lesions. There was a good correlation between a positive response to intra-articular analgesia of the distal interphalangeal joint and intrathecal analgesia of the navicular bursa and increased uptake of radiopharmaceutical in the region of the navicular bone in the horses with primary foot pain. It is concluded that quantitative scintigraphic assessment of bone phase images of the foot, in combination with local analgesic techniques, can be helpful in the identification of the potential source of pain causing lameness related to the foot, but false positive results can occur, especially in horses with low heel conformation.