Murray RC, Dyson SJ, Weekes JS, et al.
Distal tarsal pain is a common reason for hind limb lameness, but diagnosis cannot always be made on radiographic examination. Scintigraphy may allow detection of subtle changes undetected by other diagnostic methods. We hypothesized that (1) distal tarsal pain would be associated with a loss of the expected pattern of radiopharmaceutical uptake (RU) detected in normal horses, (2) distal tarsal RU would be greater in limbs with tarsal pain than without pain, (3) RU in painful tarsi with radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis (OA) would be greater than in distal tarsal pain with no radiographic evidence of OA. The study aimed to describe radiopharmaceutical distribution in the distal tarsal region of horses with distal tarsal pain, and to compare this with the contralateral limb and results from horses without tarsal pain. Retrospective evaluation of scintigraphic images of the distal tarsal region was performed for 52 horses with distal tarsal pain: 15 with no radiographic evidence of OA (Group 1) and 37 with radiographic evidence (Group 2). The images were assessed using vertical and horizontal profile analysis across the distal tarsal region and regions of interest comparisons between the distal tarsal region and tibia within each horse (RU ratio). Painful limbs in unilaterally lame horses from Groups 1 and 2 had a significantly greater RU ratio than the respective contralateral limbs, and were significantly greater than the RU ratio in normal horses. On plantar images, mean region of interest counts were greater in the lame than the contralateral limb in Group 2 but not in Group 1. Although there was a positive correlation between lame and contralateral limb RU ratio in group 1, this was lost in group 2 horses. In lame limbs, the normal vertical activity profile was lost in 85% of group 1 and all of group 2, and the normal horizontal activity profile was lost in all of group 1 and 96% of group 2. There was a significant effect of lameness, but not of group on sites of peak activity on all profiles. The results of this study indicate that distal tarsal pain is associated with loss of the expected pattern of RU detected in normal horses. The findings also suggest that distal tarsal RU in lame limbs is greater than in limbs without pain, and that painful limbs with radiographic evidence of OA have a greater RU than painful limbs without radiographic evidence of OA.