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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Performance of four equine pain scales and their association to movement asymmetry in horses with induced orthopedic pain

Ask, Katrina; Andersen, Pia Haubro; Tamminen, Lena-Mari; Rhodin, Marie; Hernlund, Elin


Objective: This study investigated the relationship between orthopedic pain experienced at rest, and degree of movement asymmetry during trot in horses with induced reversible acute arthritis. Orthopedic pain was assessed with the Horse Grimace Scale (HGS), the Equine Utrecht University Scale of Facial Assessment of Pain (EQUUS-FAP), the Equine Pain Scale (EPS), and the Composite Orthopedic Pain Scale (CPS). Reliability and diagnostic accuracy were evaluated with intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) and area under the curve (AUC).

Study design and animals: Eight healthy horses were included in this experimental study, with each horse acting as its own control.

Methods: Orthopedic pain was induced by intra-articular lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration. Serial pain assessments were performed before induction and during pain progression and regression, where three observers independently and simultaneously assessed pain at rest with the four scales. Movement asymmetry was measured once before induction and a minimum of four times after induction, using objective gait analysis.

Results: On average 6.6 (standard deviation 1.2) objective gait analyses and 12.1 (2.4) pain assessments were performed per horse. The ICC for each scale was 0.75 (CPS), 0.65 (EPS), 0.52 (HGS), and 0.43 (EQUUS-FAP). Total pain scores of all scales were significantly associated with an increase in movement asymmetry (R2 values ranging from −0.0649 to 0.493); with CPS pain scores being most closely associated with movement asymmetry. AUC varied between scales and observers, and CPS was the only scale where all observers had a good diagnostic accuracy (AUC > 0.72).

Conclusions and clinical relevance: This study identified significant associations between pain experienced at rest and degree of movement asymmetry for all scales. Pain scores obtained using CPS were most closely associated with movement asymmetry. CPS was also the most accurate and reliable pain scale. All scales had varying linear and non-linear relations between total pain scores and movement asymmetry, illustrating challenges with orthopedic pain assessment during rest in subtly lame horses since movement asymmetry needs to be rather high before total pain score increase.


pain assessment; lameness; LPS induction; objective gait analysis; movement symmetry; reliability

Published in

Frontiers in Veterinary Science
2022, Volume: 9, article number: 938022