To verify the existence of intertransverse joints (ITJs) in young foals.
11 warmblood foals.
Postmortem examination of the lumbar area in foals < 200 days old using CT, MRI, dissection, and histomorphology. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics.
Age of foals varied between 1 and 200 days (median, 11 days). Ten foals had 6 lumbar (L) vertebrae, and 1 foal had 5. All 11 foals, irrespective of age, had ITJs between the first sacral and last lumbar vertebrae and between the last and second-to-last lumbar vertebrae. In 6 foals (all with 6 L vertebrae), ITJs also existed between the fourth and fifth L vertebra. One foal, also with 6 L vertebrae, additionally had a unilateral (right) ITJ between the transverse processes of the third and fourth L vertebra. Based on CT, width of ITJs was seemingly greater in young (< 1 month old) foals because of the incomplete ossification of the transverse processes. The ITJs were confirmed and further characterized by MRI, dissection, and histomorphology.
ITJs already exist in very young warmblood foals and are present at birth. During the first months of life, these juvenile ITJs develop similarly to other synovial joints with increasing ossification and concomitant decrease of thickness of the cartilage layer. Knowledge of the presence of these ITJs in young animals is clinically relevant, as they should be recognized as nonpathologic when for instance a young foal is presented for presumed arthropathy and examined with advanced imaging techniques.