Gutiérrez-Crespo B, Kircher PR, Carrera I.
The aim of this study was to describe the appearance of the ligamentous structures of the occipitoatlantoaxial (OAA) region in the normal horse by 3 tesla (3T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The MRI images of the longitudinal odontoid ligament, tectorial membrane, dorsal and ventral atlantoaxial ligaments, dorsal atlantooccipital membrane with its reinforcing ligaments, and the lateral atlantooccipital ligaments of 10 horse cadavers were evaluated. All ligaments and membranes were identified in all planes, except for the lateral atlantooccipital ligament in the sagittal plane due to its cranioventrolateral course. All were iso to mildly hypointense to musculature of the neck in T1W with the exception of the tectorial membrane that was moderately hypointense; moderately hypointense in PD-SPIR, and markedly hypointense (isointense to cortical bone) in T2W. The PD-SPIR was the best sequence to identify all ligaments and membranes from their cranial and caudal attachments. The longitudinal odontoid ligament, ventral atlantoaxial ligament, and reinforcing bands of the dorsal atlantooccipital membrane presented a characteristic striped heterogeneous signal behavior thought to be due to fibrocartilaginous content. The remaining ligaments and membranes showed homogeneous signal intensity. Special anatomical features in this species such as the fan-shaped longitudinal odontoid ligament, absence of the transverse ligament and presence of the ventral atlantoaxial ligament were documented. Ligamentous structures that stabilize the equine OAA region were described with MRI in this study and these findings could serve as an anatomic reference for those cases where instability of this region is suspected.