A study from Colorado State University suggests that it’s best to use a combination of imaging techniques when diagnosing stifle joint problems.
The researchers reviewed the records of 37 horses (47 stifles because some horses had bilateral pain) admitted to the university clinic for evaluation of potential stifle injuries, paying particular attention to the results of ultrasonographic and arthroscopic examinations.
They found that damage to the fibrous “cup” on the inside of the joint (medial meniscal lesions) was detected more often with ultrasonography, which uses high frequency sound waves to create images of internal body structures, than with arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves the insertion of a fiber optic tube and tiny video camera.
Bone spurs in the joint were also more likely to be detected via ultrasound. And damage to the patellar ligaments, which stabilize the entire joint, was only detected with ultrasound.
On the other hand, arthroscopy was better at identifying defects in the articular cartilage as well as tears of the medial cranial meniscotibial ligament, which attaches the menisci to the bone.
The researchers conclude that, given the strength and limitations of each modality, the best evaluations of the stifle joint include the use of both arthroscopy and ultrasound.
Reference: “A comparison of arthroscopy to ultrasonography for identification of pathology of the equine stifle,” Equine Veterinary Journal, November 2015
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #461, February 2016.