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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Osteochondrosis in the central and third tarsal bones of young horses

Olstad, Kristin; Ekman, Stina; Bjornsdottir, Sigriour; Fjordbakk, Cathrine T.; Hansson, Kerstin; Sigurdsson, Sigurdur F.; Ley, Charles J.


Recently, the central and third tarsal bones of 23 equine fetuses and foals were examined using micro-computed tomography. Radiological changes, including incomplete ossification and focal ossification defects interpreted as osteochondrosis, were detected in 16 of 23 cases. The geometry of the osteochondrosis defects suggested they were the result of vascular failure, but this requires histological confirmation. The study aim was to examine central and third tarsal bones from the 16 cases and to describe the tissues present, cartilage canals, and lesions, including suspected osteochondrosis lesions. Cases included 9 males and 7 females from 0 to 150 days of age, comprising 11 Icelandic horses, 2 standardbred horses, 2 warmblood riding horses, and 1 coldblooded trotting horse. Until 4 days of age, all aspects of the bones were covered by growth cartilage, but from 105 days, the dorsal and plantar aspects were covered by fibrous tissue undergoing intramembranous ossification. Cartilage canal vessels gradually decreased but were present in most cases up to 122 days and were absent in the next available case at 150 days. Radiological osteochondrosis defects were confirmed in histological sections from 3 cases and consisted of necrotic vessels surrounded by ischemic chondronecrosis (articular osteochondrosis) and areas of retained, morphologically viable hypertrophic chondrocytes (physeal osteochondrosis). The central and third tarsal bones formed by both endochondral and intramembranous ossification. The blood supply to the growth cartilage of the central and third tarsal bones regressed between 122 and 150 days of age. Radiological osteochondrosis defects represented vascular failure, with chondrocyte necrosis and retention, or a combination of articular and physeal osteochondrosis.


central tarsal bone; endochondral ossification; horse; intramembranous ossification; osteochondrosis; third tarsal bone

Published in

Veterinary Pathology
2024, Volume: 61, number: 1, pages: 74 - 87