Osseous cyst-like lesions/subchondral bone cysts of the phalanges

C. Sherlock, T. Mair
Equine Veterinary Education
April 2011

In the horse, the phalanges are the second most common location for the occurrence of osseous cyst-like lesions (OCLLs) after the medial femoral condyle of the stifle. Phalangeal OCLLs occur in a variety of locations, most of which are adjacent to, if not communicating with, a joint. The aetiology of these lesions is considered to be multifactorial by most authors. Horses with OCLLs demonstrate lameness of varying severity. Diagnostic analgesia should be used to localise the lameness. After localisation of the lameness, standard radiographic views of the isolated area should be performed. The radiographic characteristics of OCLLs are dependent on the stage of development of the OCLL; OCLLs may first be identified as a small lucent flattening or depression in the articular surface; however, they may progress to a circular, oval or conical single or multi chambered radiolucency within the bone. There may be a rim of radiodense sclerosis around the lucency. Diagnosis of some OCLLs may only be achieved using nonstandard radiographic views or may require advanced diagnostic imaging modalities such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. Treatment of phalangeal cysts may be conservative or surgical. Surgical treatment options generally aim to prevent cyst enlargement and promote filling of the lesion with osseous material. Depending on the cyst, this can be performed arthroscopically or via an extra-articular approach. Occasionally, the severity of proximal interphalangeal joint OCLLs warrants surgical arthrodesis. Overall the prognosis for return to performance for horses with OCLLs ranges from 30–90% but is dependent on the breed, age and intended use of the horse, surface area of weightbearing cartilage affected, concurrent osteoarthritis within the joint and treatment administered.

Large animal: