Histomorphometric evaluation of the effect of early exercise on subchondral vascularity in the third carpal bone of horses

Woong Kim, PhD; Brian H. McArdle, PhD; Chris E. Kawcak, DVM, PhD; C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD; Elwyn C. Firth, BVSc, PhD; Neil D. Broom, PhD
American Journal of Veterinary Research
April 1, 2013

Objective—To investigate histomorphometric changes in the cartilage and subchondral bone of the third carpal bone associated with conditioning exercise in young Thoroughbreds.

Animals—Nine 18-month-old Thoroughbreds.

Procedures—Both third carpal bones of 9 horses (4 exercised spontaneously at pasture only and 5 given additional conditioning exercise beginning at a mean age of 3 weeks) were evaluated. Histomorphometric variables (hyaline and calcified cartilage thickness and collagen orientation; vascular channel area, number, and orientation; and osteochondral junction rugosity) of the third carpal bone, sampled at 4 dorsopalmar sites in the radial facet, were compared between the exercised and nonexercised groups.

Results—The vascular channel area measured at the 4 dorsopalmar sites was larger in the exercised group than in the control group, but none of the variables were significantly different between groups. Both groups had significant site-specific variations in all measured variables. Most importantly, the vascular channel area was highest in the most dorsal aspect.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggested that the mild exercise imposed in both groups during the developmental period appeared to be associated with an increase in the vascular channel area beneath the calcified cartilage layer in the third carpal bone. This increased vascular channel area could also be associated with high stress in the dorsal aspect of the radial facet, a region that is known to be vulnerable to osteochondral fragmentation.

Large animal: