Smith AD, Morton AJ, Winter MD, et al.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sensitive imaging modality to detect the early changes of osteoarthritis. Currently, there is no quantifiable method to tract these pathological changes over time in the horse. The objective of this experimental study was to characterize the progression of MRI changes in an equine model of post-traumatic osteoarthritis using a semiquantitative scoring system for whole-organ evaluation of the middle carpal joint. On day 0, an osteochondral fragment was created in one middle carpal joint (OCI) and the contralateral joint (CON) was sham-operated in 10 horses. On day 14, study horses resumed exercise on a high-speed treadmill until the completion of the study (day 98). High-field MRI examinations were performed on days 0 (preosteochondral fragmentation), 14, and 98 and scored by three blinded observers using consensus agreement. Images were scored based on 15 independent articular features, and scores were compared between and within-groups. On days 14 and 98, OCI joints had significantly (P ≤ 0.05) higher whole-organ median scores (29.0 and 31.5, respectively), compared to CON joints (21.5 and 20.0, respectively). On day 14, OCI joints showed significant increases in high-signal bone lesion scores, and osteochondral fragment number and size. On day 98, high-signal bone lesion, low-signal bone lesion, osteophyte formation, cartilage signal abnormality, subchondral bone irregularity, joint effusion, and synovial thickening scores were significantly increased in OCI joints. Study results suggest that the MRI whole-organ scoring system reported here may be used to identify onset and progression of pathological changes following osteochondral injury.