Scintigraphy of the sacroiliac joint region in asymptomatic riding horses: scintigraphic appearance and evaluation of method

Erichsen C, Eksell P, Widstrom C, et al.

Vet Radiol Ultrasound 2003;44:699-706.

The sacroiliac region in 33 clinically normal riding horses was examined with scintigraphy to determine the normal scintigraphic appearance, to evaluate a semiquantitative method used to calculate a sacroiliac joint (SI joint) ratio, and to identify factors that affect the scintigraphic appearance of the pelvis. The scintigraphic examination included dorsal views of each SI joint region and one lateral view of the urinary bladder. Two predefined areas (the SI joint and the area between the tuber sacrale and the SI joint) were evaluated subjectively by comparing the intensity in each area to the intensity in the tuber sacrale, and a semiquantitative method was applied on the images to calculate an SI joint ratio. The thickness of the muscle mass overlying each SI joint was measured by using ultrasound. A corrected ratio was calculated based on a corrected pixel count for each SI joint. Of 29 evaluated horses, 28 had normal radiotracer uptake in the SI joints and 10 horses had symmetric normal radiotracer uptake in the area between the tuber sacrale and the SI joint. The mean SI joint ratio was 0.53 on both the left and right sides, and the mean corrected SI joint ratio was 2.15 on the left side and 2.13 on the right side. Factors that affect the scintigraphic appearance of the pelvis were identified and included attenuation, radioactive urine, and muscle symmetry. The muscle thickness ranged from 8-11 cm, causing 71-82% attenuation. Radioactive urine in the urinary bladder was located ventral to the SI joint region in 16 horses, and four of these were excluded from further evaluation because of risk of misinterpretation. A visual assessment of symmetry of the horses’ gluteal muscle mass was compared with the ultrasound measurements. Fourteen horses (14/33) were regarded symmetric by both techniques. Soft tissue attenuation was found to severely compromise the result and indicated that only lesions in the SI joint with severely increased radiotracer uptake can be detected with scintigraphy. Knowledge about presence of radioactive urine ventral to the SI joint region and assessment of muscle symmetry is essential for a correct subjective evaluation. Any situation with difference in muscle mass between the left and right side of the pelvis will give a false impression of increased radiotracer uptake on the side with lesser muscle mass.