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To assess the repeatability of equine 18F–sodium fluoride (18F-NaF) positron emission tomography (PET) findings, and to evaluate the ability of PET to monitor the progression of areas of increased radiopharmaceutical uptake (IRU) in the fetlocks of Thoroughbred racehorses.


25 racehorses with clinical signs related to fetlock injuries.


This study is a prospective, longitudinal clinical study. Twenty-five racehorses (54 fetlocks) underwent three 18F-NaF PET scans 6 weeks apart. The first 18F-NaF PET scan was performed at the start of a 12-week period of rest from racing (lay-up). Areas of IRU in the fetlock joints were quantified using maximal standardized uptake values (SUVmax) and were graded by 2 experienced observers. Statistical comparisons were made between scans to detect changes in IRU grade and SUVmax over time.


Standing PET findings were repeatable, with 131/149 (88%) areas of IRU identified on the initial scans seen again at the 6-week follow-up scan. The palmar/plantar condyles were the sites most commonly presenting with IRU, followed by the proximal sesamoid bones. Overall, 65% of fetlocks demonstrated improvement in IRU grade during the 12-week period of rest from racing. Areas of higher IRU grade took longer to resolve than the lower graded areas.


Standing PET findings in the racehorse fetlock were repeatable. The SUV-based grading system may be helpful when determining appropriate lay-up duration for Thoroughbred racehorses. PET may be used to monitor areas of the fetlock involved in catastrophic breakdown injuries in Thoroughbred racehorses.

Open access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research