Objectives: The object of this study was to describe previously defined soft tissue structures by using spin and gradient sequences in a 0.5 Tesla magnetic resonance system in order to improve the characterisation of tendon and ligaments at the plantar region of the equine tarsus and metatarsus while considering possible age-related variations. Methods: Cadaveric hindlimbs from twenty-two Warmblood horses with an age range from one month to twenty-five years were examined in spin and gradient echoes. The proximal suspensory ligament from six limbs was dissected to assign the signal intensities histologically. For statistical analysis, horses were divided into two groups (≤3 years and >3 years) for evaluating signal intensity and homogeneity of the plantar tendons and ligaments. Results: Focal increase of the signal intensity within the deep digital flexor tendon was significantly more present in horses older than three years. Signal alterations of the long plantar ligament were seen without a significant dependency to age. The accessory ligament of the deep digital flexor tendon could not be visualized on all images within the region of interest. The morphology of the proximal suspensory ligament was not affected by age-related changes. Clinical relevance: Spin and gradient echoes in MRI were suitable to identify and assess soft tissue structures at the plantar aspect of the equine tarsus and proximal metatarsus. Age-related appearance must be considered when interpreting magnetic resonance images.
Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology