Clinical significance of osseous spurs on the dorsoproximal aspect of the third metatarsal bone

Authors: 
A. FAIRBURN, S. DYSON, R. MURRAY
Volume: 
42
Number: 
7
Pages: 
591-599
Journal: 
Equine Veterinary Journal
Date: 
October 2010

Objectives: To verify the sites of insertion of the dorsal metatarsal ligament and the tendons of tibialis cranialis and fibularis tertius in order to determine if periarticular osteophytes and entheseophytes could be differentiated radiologically; and to determine the frequency of occurrence of osseous spurs on the dorsoproximal aspect of MtIII.

Hypotheses: The frequency of osseous spurs on the dorsoproximal aspect of MtIII would be higher in lame than in clinically normal horses and higher in horses with distal hock joint pain or proximal suspensory desmitis than in horses with other causes of hindlimb lameness.

Methods: A retrospective study of data from the clinical work up and tarsal radiographs of 455 horses was performed. Horses were divided into: Group 1, clinically normal horses; Groups 2–5, according to the diagnosis of hindlimb lameness. Radiographs were examined for the presence of an osseous spur on the dorsoproximal aspect of MtIII; pathology of the distal tarsal joints was graded. The associations between the presence of a spur and lameness, diagnosis group and the grade of distal tarsal joint abnormalities were analysed statistically using Chi-squared tests.

Results: An osseous spur was present in 25% of horses; 13% of horses with bilateral radiographs had bilateral spurs. There was no significant difference in frequency of the presence of a spur between lame and nonlame horses, or between horses with other causes of hindlimb lameness and horses with proximal suspensory desmitis and/or distal tarsal joint pain. The presence of an osseous spur was significantly associated with the grade of radiological abnormality in the distal tarsal joints (tarsometatarsal joint P = 0.018: centrodistal joint P = 0.027). In many horses it was not possible to differentiate accurately between osteophytes and entheseophytes.

Conclusions and potential relevance: The presence of an osseous spur on the dorsoproximal aspect of MtIII in the absence of other radiological abnormalities may be an incidental finding. Osseous spurs occur more frequently in hocks with radiological abnormalities in the distal tarsal joints and may be an indicator of distal tarsal joint osteoarthritis. The clinical significance must be established by intra-articular analgesia.