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Measurement of Articular Cartilage Stiffness of the Femoropatellar, Tarsocrural, and Metatarsophalangeal Joints in Horses and Comparison with Biochemical Data

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Objective

To determine normal cartilage stiffness values in different weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing areas of 3 different equine joints, and to evaluate the relationship between cartilage stiffness and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen content. Study Design

Compressive stiffness of the articular cartilage was measured in 8 horse cadaver femoropatellar (FP), tarsocrural (TC), and metatarsophalangeal (MT) joints. Gross evaluation, collagen content, GAG content, and histologic appearance were assessed for each measurement location. Animals

Eight equine cadavers (4 intact females, 4 castrated males; 7 Quarter Horse or Quarter Horse type, 1 Arabian; aged 4–12 years, weighing 400–550 kg) Methods

The articular surfaces of 8 equine cadaver FP, TC, and MT joints were grossly evaluated for signs of articular cartilage pathology. Stiffness at preselected sites (FP joint—6 sites; TC joint—3 sites; MT joint—4 sites) was determined using an arthroscopic indentation instrument. Biochemical composition (collagen, GAG content) and histologic evaluation (modified Mankin score) were assessed for each measurement site. Results

All cartilage from all sites evaluated was determined to be normal based on macroscopic and histologic assessments. No significant correlation between Mankin scores and cartilage stiffness values was observed. Site differences in cartilage stiffness were measured in all 3 joints (P<.001). GAG or collagen content had a significant positive correlation with stiffness values in 6 of 13 sites (P<.05, r>0.622, r2>0.387). Conclusion

Relative cartilage stiffness values measured in healthy equine joints are site dependent and can be measured using an indentation device intended for arthroscopic application. Clinical Relevance

An indentation instrument provided an objective means of determining relative compressive stiffness of articular cartilage. Further research needs to be performed to confirm the site and joint differences observed in this study in clinically normal horses and to determine if the tester can be used clinically to predict articular cartilage pathology.
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Keywords: Mankin score; articular cartilage; collagen content; compressive stiffness; glycosaminoglycan content; horse

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory and the Departments of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery and Pathobiology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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