Septic arthritis/tenosynovitis in the horse can have life-threatening consequences. The purpose of this cross-sectional retrospective study was to describe ultrasound characteristics of septic arthritis/tenosynovitis in a group of horses. Diagnosis of septic arthritis/tenosynovitis was based on historical and clinical findings as well as the results of the synovial fluid analysis and/or positive synovial culture. Ultrasonographic findings recorded were degree of joint/sheath effusion, degree of synovial membrane thickening, echogenicity of the synovial fluid, and presence of hyperechogenic spots and fibrinous loculations. Ultrasonographic findings were tested for dependence on the cause of sepsis, time between admission and beginning of clinical signs, and the white blood cell counts in the synovial fluid.
Thirty-eight horses with confirmed septic arthritis/tenosynovitis of 43 joints/sheaths were included. Degree of effusion was marked in 81.4% of cases, mild in 16.3%, and absent in 2.3%. Synovial thickening was mild in 30.9% of cases and moderate/severe in 69.1%. Synovial fluid was anechogenic in 45.2% of cases and echogenic in 54.8%. Hyperechogenic spots were identified in 32.5% of structures and fibrinous loculations in 64.3%. Relationships between the degree of synovial effusion, degree of the synovial thickening, presence of fibrinous loculations, and the time between admission and beginning of clinical signs were identified, as well as between the presence of fibrinous loculations and the cause of sepsis (P ≤ 0.05).
Findings indicated that ultrasonographic findings of septic arthritis/tenosynovitis may vary in horses, and may be influenced by time between admission and beginning of clinical signs.