To determine morphological characteristics of subchondral cystic lesions (SCLs) in the proximal phalanx (PP) of adult horses.
Radiographs and/or CT scans of PP from 46 horses.
There were horses with a SCL in PP, which was diagnosed by radiography and/or computed tomography, included. Additional data (signalment, history, orthopedic examination) were collected retrospectively for each case.
Forty-six horses met the required inclusion criteria, with a total of 62 SCLs. Forty-three SCLs (70.5%) were located in the proximal PP (group A). Forty-four percent of these were associated with short, incomplete fractures, while 30 of the proximal PP SCLs (69.7%) were found mid sagittal. Proximal SCLs mostly showed a blurred, irregular shape (62.8%) and long, as well as wide, but shallow shapes in CT. Eighteen SCLs (29.5%) were found in the distal PP, near the proximal interphalangeal joint (group B). In contrast to the described proximal SCLs, the distal SCLs were of circular or oval shape, well delineated (77.8%), and distinctly larger. Horses of group A were significantly older (mean age, 11.47 years) than horses of group B (mean age, 6.72 years).
The distribution and morphological attributes of proximal PP SCLs as well as their association to subchondral bone lesions and short, incomplete proximal fractures indicate more recently developed lesions due to chronic stress factors, such as repetitive trauma to the cartilage and subchondral bone. In contrast, morphology and distribution of distal SCLs showed high accordance with developmental bone cysts originating from a failure of endochondral ossification.