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Equine Vet J. 2004 Mar;36(2):143-8.

Clinical significance of ossification of the cartilages of the front feet based on nuclear bone scintigraphy, radiography and lameness examinations in 21 Finnhorses.

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Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, PO Box 57, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.



Research on the clinical significance of ossification of the cartilages of the foot has been limited, despite the common nature of the condition and conflicting reports in previous literature.


Some radiographic features in the ossification of the cartilages, such as incomplete fusion lines between separate centres of ossification and the ossified base, are of clinical significance.


The relationships between radiopharmaceutical uptake in bone phase nuclear scintigraphy at the heels (palmar processes of the distal phalanx, including ossification of the cartilages of the foot), radiographic extent and type of ossification of the cartilages and clinical lameness were evaluated retrospectively in 21 Finnhorses (age > or = 4 years) in a total of 36 front feet.


No significant relationship between height of the ossifications and radiopharmaceutical uptake at the ipsilateral heels existed. Clearly separate centres of ossification were not associated with increased uptake. Moderately increased uptake was suspected to be associated with ossification of the adjacent cartilage in only one foot. Intense uptake was present unilaterally in 4 horses, at one medial and 3 lateral heels. In 2 of these horses, a unilateral palmar digital nerve block relieved the mild lameness; 2 horses had no obvious lameness but had a history of being stiff or having locomotion problems during high speed trot. At 2 of the lateral heels, an incomplete fusion line was present between a large separate centre of ossification and the base, and the third horse had a high sidebone with bony protrusions, suggestive of chronic entheseopathy in a narrow foot. At the medial heel, an oblique radiograph revealed a faint radiolucent line at the base of the ossification. In all cartilages with intense radiopharmaceutical uptake at the heel and/or lameness, the ossified part of the cartilage was wider and more irregular compared to other ossifications of the front feet of the individual.


Increased radiopharmaceutical uptake, associated with a different radiographic appearance from that of other ossifications of the front feet, was a conclusive sign of clinical significance. Obscure locomotion problems were more commonly associated with ossification of the cartilages than true lameness.


This information is useful in lameness and prepurchase examinations and is likely also to be applicable to other coldblooded breeds used for athletic purposes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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