Magnetic resonance imaging of the equine digit with chronic laminitis

Murray RC, Dyson SJ, Schramme MC, et al. 

Vet Radiol Ultrasound 2003;44:609-617.

Chronic laminitis is a severe disease affecting the equine digit. It was hypothesized that magnetic resonance (MR) imaging would improve visualization of structures within the foot and pathology associated with chronic laminitis. This study aimed to describe the MR imaging findings in chronic laminitis, compare different pulse sequences for visualization of pathology, and to compare MR imaging with standard radiography. Twenty (10 forelimb, 10 hindlimb) cadaver limbs from 10 horses clinically diagnosed with chronic laminitis (group L) and 10 limbs without laminitis (group N) were used. Lateromedial radiographs and sagittal and transverse MR images of the foot were obtained. Radiographs and MR images were evaluated for anatomic definition and evidence of pathology. Dorsal hoof wall thickness and angle of rotation and displacement distance of the distal phalanx were measured. Comparisons were made between group L and N, forelimb and hindlimb within each horse, and MR imaging and radiography. Features consistently noted with MR images in group L, but not detected using radiography, included laminar disruption, circumscribed areas of laminar gas, laminar fluid, and bone medullary fluid. Other findings seen only on MR images included increased size and number of vascular channels, alterations in the corium coronae, and distal interphalangeal joint distension. Magnetic resonance imaging allowed better definition of laminar gas lines and P3 surface irregularity observed on radiographs. Based on measurements, group L had a greater angle of rotation, distal displacement, and dorsal hoof wall thickness than group N; forelimb hoof wall thickness was greater than hindlimb; and distal displacement and hoof wall thickness measurements were smaller using MR imaging than radiography, but had a similar pattern. It is concluded that there are features of chronic laminitis consistently observed using MR imaging and that these may be additional to features observed radiographically.