Screen for Stifle Osteochondrosis With Ultrasonography

Ultrasonography allowed researchers to detect subclinical lesions in young foals and implement treatment promptly.
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Did you know that tiny pieces of bone and cartilage, some smaller than the size of a coin, can turn a racehorse or a sport horse from a serious contender to an injured athlete with a lengthy recovery time? Unfortunately, it’s a reality that many owners and trainers face on a regular basis.

Osteochondrosis is characterized by flaps of cartilage and bone or loose cartilage/bone fragments within a joint. Lesions can develop in the first weeks of a foal’s life and are detectable at the microscopic level, but usually don’t cause clinical signs such as increased joint fluid or lameness.

Gabrielle Martel, a DVM-PhD student working under Sheila Laverty, MVB, DACVS, DECVS, in her Comparative Orthopedic Research Laboratory at the Université de Montréal, in Quebec, Canada, said osteochondrosis that occurs in the trochlear ridges located on the bottom end of the femur in the horse’s stifle is one of the worst forms veterinarians and owners can encounter. If lesions are extensive, their prognosis post-surgery is poor, and they could be career-ending for racehorses and sport horses.

“But early detection of subclinical lesions holds the promise to improve outcomes as exercise restriction may promote healing,” Martel said

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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