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Pathophysiology and diagnosis of third carpal bone disease in horses: A review

Secombe, C.J., Firth, E.C., Perkins, N.R. and Anderson, B.H. (2002) Pathophysiology and diagnosis of third carpal bone disease in horses: A review. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 50 (1). pp. 2-8.

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Third carpal bone (C3) disease is a significant cause of lameness in Standardbred and Thoroughbred horses. The bone density of C3 increases as a result of exercise, reducing the compliance of the bone and predisposing it to injury. Currently, the most widely used method of diagnosis is subjective radiography using the tangential view. Radiographically, increases in bone mineral density (BMD) appear as sclerosis but it is not known at what point increases in sclerosis indicate the onset of disease or increased risk of C3 fracture. A quantitative assessment of the BMD of C3 in horses would improve understanding of the changes that occur within this bone and guide athletic management, as it is thought that BMD changes precede articular cartilage damage. Methods of non-invasive bone-mineral analysis used for the detection of osteoporosis in humans include single photon absorptiometry (SPA), dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), computed tomography (CT), radioabsorptiometry (RA), quantitative ultrasonography (QU) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To date, DXA and RA are the most commonly used methods of quantitative non-invasive bone-mineral analysis in horses. The cost of equipment and difficulties in performing DXA in live animals preclude the routine use of this technique for diagnostic purposes. RA may become clinically applicable to C3 analysis in horses, but small variations in x-ray beam angle when taking the tangential view significantly affect results, making this technique clinically inapplicable at this time. Currently, methods of quantitative non-invasive bone-mineral analysis of C3 in horses are not suited to clinical application.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: New Zealand Veterinary Association
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