Radiographic and scintigraphic evaluation of spondylosis in the equine thoracolumbar spine: A retrospective study

Meehan, L.; Dyson, S.; Murray, R.
Equine Veterinary Journal
November 2009

Reasons for performing study: Clinical, radiographic and scintigraphic signs associated with spondylosis of the equine thoracolumbar spine have been poorly documented.

Objectives: To establish an objective radiographic and scintigraphic grading system for spondylosis lesions; to estimate the prevalence of spondylosis in a population of horses with back pain; and to compare the results of radiography and scintigraphy

Methods: Radiographic images of the thoracolumbar spine from 670 horses with clinical signs of back pain were graded. Scintigraphic images from horses with spondylosis lesions underwent subjective and objective analysis. Sensitivity and specificity of scintigraphy for detection of spondylosis relative to radiography for identification of spondylosis were calculated, and Chi-squared analysis was performed to test for an association between location and severity of lesions.

Results: Twenty-three of 670 horses (3.4%) with back pain had radiographic evidence of spondylosis. Of these horses, 14 (61%) had more than one lesion and 44% (n = 22) of lesions occurred between T11-T13 vertebral bodies. Only 33% (n = 28) of locations with radiographic changes had increased radiopharmaceutical uptake.

Conclusion: Spondylosis occurs at a low prevalence in horses with back pain. It may be present alone or in association with other osseous abnormalities. The clinical significance of spondylosis needs further investigation.

Potential relevance: Spondylosis is uncommon but may be a contributor to back pain in the horse.