Measuring Tendon Stiffness to Monitor Healing

Sonoelastography can help vets monitor healing and develop rehab programs best-suited for the horse’s recovery rate.

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Measuring Tendon Stiffness to Monitor Healing
As an injured tendon heals, the tissues naturally become stiffer or more rigid. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Tendons might be called soft-tissue structures, but in reality they require a certain amount of rigidity to provide support and effectively connect muscle to bone. It’s that stiffness—or lack thereof, as the case might be in an injured, but healing, structure—that researchers think could help veterinarians evaluate and monitor the status of superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injuries.

However, because injuries often occur in the tendon’s core, it can be difficult to externally evaluate whether the injured tissue has regained its stiffness.

To that end, Yoshinori Kasashima, DVM, PhD, of the Japan Racing Association’s Equine Research Institute, in Tochigi, and colleagues tested with positive results whether an ultrasound-based technique called sonoelastography could measure tissue stiffness. Sonoelastography measures the relative stiffness of inner tissues and displays them as color. Combined with a procedure called a strain ratio (SR), Kasashima believes the results can be used to measure recovery, especially later in the healing process.

“The SR is an index that evaluates the hardness of material,” he explained. “Using a strain ratio in conjunction with the color grading system provided through sonoelastography, this method could be useful for clinical practices because it can quickly evaluate the stiffness of injured tendon

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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