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Development of subchondral cystic lesions after articular cartilage and subchondral bone damage in young horses

, : Development of subchondral cystic lesions after articular cartilage and subchondral bone damage in young horses. Equine Veterinary Journal 28(3): 225-232

The objective of this study was to determine if damage to the articular cartilage alone or articular cartilage plus subchondral bone of the distal medial femoral condyle of young, exercised horses resulted in the formation of subchondral cystic lesions. Twelve Quarter Horses (age 1-2 years), free of clinical and radiographic signs of osteochondrosis and lameness were used. In 6 horses (Group 1), a 15 times 1 mm linear full thickness defect in the articular cartilage was made arthroscopically on the weightbearing surface of the distal aspect of the medial femoral condyle. In the other 6 horses (Group 2), a 15 times 3 mm full thickness elliptical cartilage defect was made, followed by burring a 5 mm diameter, 4 mm deep hole into the subchondral bone. Three weeks after surgery, all horses were hand walked and trotted for 2 weeks and then exercised for 6 min daily, 5 days a week for the next 14 weeks on a treadmill. They were then turned onto a small paddock for 6 weeks (6 months total). The development of subchondral cystic lesions was determined using radiography. Bone activity in the femoral condyle was monitored with nuclear scintigraphy. All horses that developed subchondral cystic lesions radiographically were subjected to euthanasia for gross and histological examination of the lesions. No subchondral cystic lesions and no clinical abnormalities were detected in the horses in Group 1. Subchondral cystic lesions developed radiographically in 5 of 6 horses in (Group 2). Scintigraphic findings of horses with subchondral cystic lesions were inconsistent. Histological examination of lesions revealed variable quantities of fibrous connective tissue, fibrocartilage and bone, with evidence of bone remodelling adjacent to the subchondral cystic lesion. The results suggest that damage to articular cartilage plus subchondral bone, but not articular cartilage alone, of the distal medial femoral condyle may lead to the development of subchondral cystic lesions. These findings indicate that all subchondral cystic lesions in horses may not be osteochondrosis-type lesions and that trauma to weightbearing articular surfaces of young horses may be a predisposing factor.


DOI: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.1996.tb03777.x

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