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Am J Vet Res. 1998 Aug;59(8):969-77.

Mechanical correlations derived from segmental histologic study of the equine superficial digital flexor tendon, from foal to adult.

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  • 1Equipe Associée INRA-Biomécanique du Cheval, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort, Maisons-Alfort, France.



To assess histologic variations of the equine superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) according to site and to horse age and activity, and to correlate these data with reported segmental mechanical results.


Superficial digital flexor tendons isolated from 42 horses 0.5 hour to 23 years old.


7 segments of each SDFT were delimited and submitted for conventional histologic examination. Each segment was examined and graded for fiber undulation, cellularity, number and size of interfascicular connective spaces (ICS), presence or absence of focal and diffuse chondroid metaplasia, and differentiation of the dorsal (DB) and palmar (PB) borders of the tendon.


Fiber undulation and cellularity significantly decreased with age. The proximal and middle metacarpal segment fibers were significantly less undulated and their ICS were smaller than those of the other segments, especially in old horses. Focal chondroid metaplasia developed from 5 years onward, mainly in the sesamoidean segments. Diffuse chondroid metaplasia was characteristic of the digital region in horses > 6 years old. The DB of the metacarpodigital region tended to differentiate into fibrocartilage in association with age. The PB was generally differentiated as nonfascicular dense connective tissue. Activity induced a decrease in the number and size of the ICS.


The lesser undulation of the proximal and middle metacarpal segments fibers can be correlated to their mechanical behavior (stress-strain curve) and relative weakness within the SDFT. Focal chondroid metaplasia and fibrocartilage on the DB are normal features, related to the compression stresses undergone by the sesamoidean region of the tendon.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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