Objective—To investigate effects of age on thickness and morphologic characteristics of hyaline cartilage, calcified cartilage, total cartilage, and subchondral bone (SCB) in the equine tarsometatarsal joint.
Sample Population—23 tarsal joints from cadavers of 23 ponies (11 days to 25 years old); ponies were limited to pasture exercise and euthanatized for reasons not related to this study.
Procedures—Tarsi were allocated into several age groups (11 days old [n = 3], 6 to 9 months old , 2 to 3 years old , 6 to 8 years old , 11 to 17 years old , and 20 to 25 years old ). Histologic examination and histomorphometric measurement of hyaline cartilage, calcified cartilage, total cartilage, and SCB were performed at medial and lateral sites.
Results—A significant decrease was detected in thickness of hyaline cartilage and total cartilage with increasing age, but there was a significant increase in thickness of calcified cartilage and SCB with increasing age. Differences in chondrocyte and collagen fiber arrangement, tidemark, and osteochondral junction morphology were evident among age groups.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—These findings suggested that the various tissues of the osteochondral unit change in different ways with age. The response of each tissue may be related to relative response of the tissues to strains induced by pasture exercise but could have an influence on how the overall properties of the osteochondral unit change with age. The findings may also be suggestive of changes that develop prior to the onset of osteoarthritis.