Assessment of articular cartilage and subchondral bone using EPIC-microCT in Labrador retrievers with incipient medial coronoid disease

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Lau SF, Wolschrijn CF, Siebelt M, et al.

Veterinary journal 2013;198:116-121.

The aetiopathogenesis of medial coronoid disease (MCD) remains obscure, despite its high prevalence. The role of changes to subchondral bone or articular cartilage is much debated. Although there is evidence of micro-damage to subchondral bone, it is not known whether this is a cause or a consequence of MCD, nor is it known whether articular cartilage is modified in the early stages of the disease. The aim of the present study was to use equilibrium partitioning of an ionic contrast agent with micro-computed tomography (microCT) to investigate changes to both the articular cartilage and the subchondral bone of the medial coronoid processes (MCP) of growing Labrador retrievers at an early stage of the disease and at different bodyweights. Of 14 purpose-bred Labrador retrievers (15-27weeks), six were diagnosed with bilateral MCD and one was diagnosed with unilateral MCD on the basis of microCT studies. The mean X-ray attenuation of articular cartilage was significantly higher in dogs with MCD than in dogs without MCD (P<0.01). In all dogs, the mean X-ray attenuation of articular cartilage was significantly higher at the lateral (P<0.001) than at the proximal aspect of the MCP, indicating decreased glycosaminoglycan content. Changes in parameters of subchondral bone micro-architecture, namely the ratio of bone volume to tissue volume (BV/TV), bone surface density (BS/TV), bone surface to volume ratio (BS/BV), trabecular thickness (Tb.Th; mm), size of marrow cavities described by trabecular spacing (Tb.Sp; mm), and structural model index (SMI), differed significantly by litter (P<0.05) due to the difference in age and weight, but not by the presence/absence of MCD (P>0.05), indicating that subchondral bone density is not affected in early MCD. This study demonstrated that cartilage matrix and not subchondral bone density is affected in the early stages of MCD.