Can Subchondral Bone Thickness Predict Catastrophic Injury?

  • By Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Wouldn’t it be great to know a horse was about to break a bone before it tragically fractures on the racecourse? For one particular—and common—break, such premonition may now be possible. British researchers have determined that MRI images of bone thickness could provide critical information about fracture risk in the lateral condyle of the third metacarpal bone (MC3)—those that occur on the outer half of the bottom bulbous end of the cannon bone.

These long front leg bones are particularly susceptible to fracture starting from the joint surface within the fetlock. It’s a high-risk fracture area for racehorses—the No. 1 reason horses are euthanized on U.K. racetracks, said Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ECVPH, FHEA, MRCVS, dean of the Division of Equine Clinical Sciences and clinical director of the Weipers Equine Centre in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland. In the United States, these fractures are the second most common site for catastrophic fracture, just behind fractures of the proximal sesamoid bones.

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