Evaluation of subchondral bone cysts in canine elbows with radiographic osteoarthritis secondary to elbow dysplasia

Gareth M C Jones, Madelaine R Gosby, Eleanore M May, Richard L Meeson
Vet Surg. 2023 Nov 9. doi: 10.1111/vsu.14047.

Objective: To investigate whether subchondral bone cysts (SBCs) were present in dogs with radiographic elbow osteoarthritis (OA) and to investigate their relationship with radiographic OA severity.

Study design: Retrospective cross-sectional study.

Sample population: Thirty-eight Labrador retrievers (total of 76 elbows).

Methods: Elbow computed tomography (CT) images of 18 young (≤2 years old) and 20 old (>2 years old) Labrador retrievers, which presented for elbow-associated lameness, were reviewed. Radiographic elbow OA was graded into four groups based on the largest osteophyte size on CT. The presence, number, and maximum diameter of SBCs were determined.

Results: Subchondral bone cysts were only identified in elbows with osteophytic new bone formation. The number and size of SBCs were associated with radiographic OA severity (p < .001 and p = .041 respectively). Specifically, the rate at which SBCs were present increased for both moderate and severe OA in comparison with the mild OA (moderate OA RR = 2.46, 95% CI 2.08-2.92, p < .001; severe OA RR = 5.60, 95% CI 4.79-6.55, p < .001). For dogs with severe OA, there was an increased likelihood that their SBCs were larger than SBCs from dogs with mild OA (OR = 1.056, 95% CI 1.012-1.101, p = .012). No SBCs were observed in elbows without radiographic evidence of OA.

Conclusion: Subchondral bone cysts were identified as a feature of radiographic elbow osteoarthritis in Labrador retrievers, and their number and size were indicative of the presence and severity of radiographic elbow OA.

Clinical significance: Subchondral bone cysts are a potential imaging biomarker for quantitative assessment for canine OA.