Traditional means of diagnosing and effectively treating foot pain have been wrought with challenges and disappointment, particularly when the focus is on deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) injury. One University of California, Davis, veterinarian and his colleagues recently determined they could diagnose and treat foot pain more successfully if they considered that multiple abnormalities could actually be contributing to the lameness, rather than just a single problem.

“Largely because of MRI, we have a greater understanding of the close anatomic and functional relationship of various bony and soft tissue structures in the equine foot,” said Mathieu Spriet, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVR, Dipl. ECVDI, of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in his presentation at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

In addition to damaging the DDFT, which runs along the back of the cannon bone and pastern to its insertion on the distal phalanx (coffin bone), the horse can injure other soft tissues, including the distal sesamoidean impar ligament, which extends between the navicular and coffin bones. Further, a horse can even develop bony changes, such as resorption (breakdown) or the formation of cystlike lesions.

To show that these lesions can (and do) occur in concert, Spriet and colleagues reviewed and compared the MRIs and radiographs of 82 horses with lameness localized to the lower aspect of the front limbs. They assessed both the bones and soft tissues for abnormalities and found:

  • Eight of the 82 cases had evidence of bony resorption on MRI;
  • They commonly noticed