Articular cartilage defects are prevalent in metacarpo/metatarsophalangeal (MCP/MTP) joints of horses. The aim of this study was to determine and compare the sensitivity and specificity of 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (3-T MRI) and computed tomography arthrography (CTA) to identify structural cartilage defects in the equine MCP/MTP joint. Forty distal cadaver limbs were imaged by CTA (after injection of contrast medium) and by 3-T MRI using specific sequences, namely, dual-echo in the steady-state (DESS), and sampling perfection with application-optimised contrast using different flip-angle evolutions (SPACE). Gross anatomy was used as the gold standard to evaluate sensitivity and specificity of both imaging techniques.
CTA sensitivity and specificity were 0.82 and 0.96, respectively, and were significantly higher than those of MRI (0.41 and 0.93, respectively) in detecting overall cartilage defects (no defect vs. defect). The intra and inter-rater agreements were 0.96 and 0.92, respectively, and 0.82 and 0.88, respectively, for CT and MRI. The positive predictive value for MRI was low (0.57). CTA was considered a valuable tool for assessing cartilage defects in the MCP/MTP joint due to its short acquisition time, its specificity and sensitivity, and it was also more accurate than MRI. However, MRI permits assessment of soft tissues and subchondral bone and is a useful technique for joint evaluation, although clinicians should be aware of the limitations of this diagnostic technique, including reduced accuracy