Use of radiography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging for evaluation of navicular syndrome in the horse

Widmer WR, Buckwalter KA, Fessler JF, et al.

Vet Radiol Ultrasound 2000;41:108-116.

Radiographic evaluation of navicular syndrome is problematic because of its inconsistent correlation with clinical signs. Scintigraphy often yields false positive and false negative results and diagnostic ultrasound is of limited value. Therefore, we assessed the use of computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging in a horse with clinical and radiographic signs of navicular syndrome. Cadaver specimens were examined with spiral computed tomographic and high-field magnetic resonance scanners and images were correlated with pathologic findings. Radiographic changes consisted of bony remodeling, which included altered synovial fossae, increased medullary opacity, cyst formation and shape change. These osseous changes were more striking and more numerous on computed tomographic and magnetic resonance images. They were most clearly defined with computed tomography. Many osseous changes seen with computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging were not radiographically evident. Histologically confirmed soft tissue alterations of the deep digital flexor tendon, impar ligament and marrow were identified with magnetic resonance imaging, but not with conventional radiography. Because of their multiplanar capability and tomographic nature, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging surpass conventional radiography for navicular imaging, facilitating earlier, more accurate diagnosis. Current advances in imaging technology should make these imaging modalities available to equine practitioners in the future.