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Histologic assessment of age-related changes in the temporomandibular joints of horses

Travis T. Smyth DVM, BSc1, Andrew L. Allen DVM, PhD2, and James L. Carmalt VetMB, PhD1
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  • 1 1Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.
  • | 2 2Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4, Canada.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To describe histologic changes in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) of horses of various ages.

SAMPLE

22 TMJs from cadavers of 11 horses.

PROCEDURES

Horses were categorized into 3 age groups (group 1, 2 to 10 years old [n = 3]; group 2, 11 to 20 years old [3]; and group 3, > 20 years old [5]). Each TMJ was sectioned into 5-mm slices, preserved in formalin, decalcified in formic acid, and routinely processed for histologic analysis. Joints were systematically assessed by use of previously described methods. Multilevel mixed-effects models were used to examine the data.

RESULTS

The number of changes was significantly fewer and degree of changes was significantly less within the TMJs of group 1 horses, compared with those of group 3 horses. Comparison among groups revealed that the combination of temporal and mandibular scores for group 1 was significantly lower than for groups 2 or 3. Disk score did not differ significantly between groups 1 and 2, but disk scores of groups 1 and 2 were significantly lower than the disk score of group 3.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

The assessed lesions were associated with osteoarthritis, and they accumulated in the TMJs as horses aged. In the absence of signs of pain manifested as changes in mastication, behavior, or performance, it would be difficult to determine the point at which accrued pathological changes represented the onset of clinically important osteoarthritis of the TMJs.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To describe histologic changes in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) of horses of various ages.

SAMPLE

22 TMJs from cadavers of 11 horses.

PROCEDURES

Horses were categorized into 3 age groups (group 1, 2 to 10 years old [n = 3]; group 2, 11 to 20 years old [3]; and group 3, > 20 years old [5]). Each TMJ was sectioned into 5-mm slices, preserved in formalin, decalcified in formic acid, and routinely processed for histologic analysis. Joints were systematically assessed by use of previously described methods. Multilevel mixed-effects models were used to examine the data.

RESULTS

The number of changes was significantly fewer and degree of changes was significantly less within the TMJs of group 1 horses, compared with those of group 3 horses. Comparison among groups revealed that the combination of temporal and mandibular scores for group 1 was significantly lower than for groups 2 or 3. Disk score did not differ significantly between groups 1 and 2, but disk scores of groups 1 and 2 were significantly lower than the disk score of group 3.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

The assessed lesions were associated with osteoarthritis, and they accumulated in the TMJs as horses aged. In the absence of signs of pain manifested as changes in mastication, behavior, or performance, it would be difficult to determine the point at which accrued pathological changes represented the onset of clinically important osteoarthritis of the TMJs.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Table S1 (PDF 148 kb)
    • Supplementary Table S2 (PDF 175 kb)

Contributor Notes

Dr. Smyth's present address is Ballarat Equine Clinic, 54 Midas Rd, Miners Rest, VIC 3352, Australia.

Address correspondence to Dr. Carmalt (james.carmalt@usask.ca).