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J Orthop Res. 2016 Sep;34(9):1539-46. doi: 10.1002/jor.23149. Epub 2016 Jan 21.

Differences in the vascular tree of the femoral trochlear growth cartilage at osteochondrosis-susceptible sites in foals revealed by SWI 3T MRI.

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Comparative Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.
Department of Radiology, Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Hôpital Notre-Dame, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.
MR Clinical Science, Philips Healthcare, Markham, Ontario, Canada.


Focal ischemic chondronecrosis of epiphyseal growth cartilage (EGC) during endochondral ossification is believed to be a key early event on the pathway to osteochondrosis (OC) in both animals and humans. The lateral ridge of the equine trochlea is a site where severe osteochondritis dissecans lesions frequently arise and is a model for the study of naturally occurring disease. Non-invasive imaging to investigate EGC vascularity may help elucidate why focal ischemia occurs. 3T MRI susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI) of femoral trochlea of OC predisposed (n = 10) and control (n = 6) day-old foals, with minimal joint loading after birth, was performed. SWI and 3D images revealed the EGC vascular architecture without a contrast agent, and matched histologic observations. No vascular lesions were identified. There was no difference in the vascular density and architecture between control and OC specimens, but a striking difference in vascular pattern was seen at the OC-predilected site in the lateral ridge of the trochlea in all specimens, when compared to the medial ridge of the trochlea, where OC lesions are rarely observed. This site was less ossified with more perichondrial vessels not yet bridging with the subchondral bone. Furthermore, the mean vascular density of all specimens was significantly higher at this site. We speculate that joint morphology and focal internal trauma on this site with a unique vascular architecture may trigger ischemic events at this site. SWI permitted visualization of EGC in young foals with a clinical 3T MRI and paves the way for non-destructive longitudinal studies to improve understanding of OC in all species. © 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 34:1539-1546, 2016.


MRI; epiphyseal growth cartilage; osteochondrosis; susceptibility-weighted imaging; vascularity

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