Frequency distribution of osteochondral fragmentation of the dorsoproximal articular surface of the proximal phalanx in racing Thoroughbreds in the UK

Walsh R, Smith MRW, Wright IM. Equine Vet J. 2017 Dec 12. [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND: Osteochondral fragmentation of the dorsoproximal margin of the proximal phalanx is commonly recognised in racing Thoroughbreds. Frequency distribution has been documented in racing Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses in the USA and in European Warmbloods but no data have been published from the UK. Concurrent intra-articular soft tissue lesions and radiographic accuracy of fragment distribution in racing Thoroughbreds have not previously been reported.

OBJECTIVES: To document frequency distribution of dorsoproximal fragmentation of the proximal phalanx in a UK population of racing Thoroughbreds and to compare this with published data. To document concurrent intra-articular lesions identified arthroscopically and radiographic accuracy of fragment distribution.

STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective single centre based, observational study.

METHODS: Surgical reports and radiographs of all racing Thoroughbreds that underwent arthroscopic surgery for removal of fragmentation from the dorsoproximal margin of the proximal phalanx at Newmarket Equine Hospital between 2011-2015 were reviewed.

RESULTS: Two-hundred-and-forty-two (85.8%) horses were in or being prepared for flat racing. Osteochondral fragmentation of the dorsoproximal aspect of the proximal phalanx was present in 428 fetlock joints of 282 horses, consisting of 194 (45.3%) left and 188 (43.9%) right metacarpophalangeal joints, and 20 (4.7%) left and 26 (6.1%) right metatarsophalangeal joints. Fragmentation was located dorsomedially in 316 (73.8%), dorsolaterally in 32 (7.5%) and biaxially in 80 (18.7%) joints. Concurrent soft tissue lesions were identified in 168 (39.3%) joints. Radiographic evidence of fragmentation was visible in 320 joints (74.8%).

MAIN LIMITATIONS: Limited numbers preclude conclusions with respect to yearlings and horses in jump race training.

CONCLUSION: Dorsoproximal fragmentation of the proximal phalanx occurred most frequently medially and in the forelimbs. Sidedness was not demonstrated. Although similar to previously reported data, variance in limb distribution is evident. Further research is required to determine whether concurrent intra-articular soft tissue lesions are aetiopathogenic or an additional result of the pathological changes leading to fragmentation. Fragmentation site was not always accurately identified radiographically.