Objective—To quantitatively evaluate contact area under 2 loads and subjectively compare contact areas with subchondral bone (SCB) density patterns in intact metacarpophalangeal joints of horses.
Sample Population—6 forelimbs from horses without musculoskeletal disease.
Procedures—Computed tomographic scans of intact metacarpophalangeal joints were analyzed to obtain SCB density measurements. Each limb was loaded on a materials testing system to 150° and 120° extension in the metacarpophalangeal joint, and the joint was stained via intra-articular injection with safranin-O or toluidine blue, respectively. Each joint was disarticulated, and the surface area was digitized. Total articular surface area, contact area, and percentage contact area at each angle were calculated for the distal third metacarpal condyles, the proximal phalanx, and the proximal sesamoid bones.
Results—Contact area on the third metacarpal condyles, proximal sesamoid bones, and the proximal phalanx significantly increased with increased load. Areas of contact subjectively appeared to have a higher density on computed tomographic scans.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Areas consistently in contact under higher load were associated with increased SCB density. This supports the idea that the SCB adapts to the load applied to it. As load increased, contact area also increased, suggesting that areas not normally loaded may have a high degree of stress during impact loading. Quantifying how contact in the joint changes under different loading conditions and the adaptation of the bone to this change in normal and abnormal joints may provide insight into the pathogenesis of osteochondral disease.