Zimmerman M, Dyson SUE, Murray R.
Back pain is common in horses, but there has been no large-scale in-depth study describing radiographic changes of the spinous processes, the relationship between radiographic and scintigraphic findings, and the effect of size, age, breed, or discipline. The objectives were to investigate the frequency of occurrence in horses with perceived back pain of: (1) radiographic alteration of the spinous process structure; (2) increased radiopharmaceutical uptake (IRU) in the spinous processes; and (3) to compare radiographic and scintigraphic findings; and to determine if there was breed, gender, age, bodyweight, height, or work discipline predisposition for close, impinging, or overriding spinous processes. Radiographic and scintigraphic images of the thoracolumbar spine of 604 horses were graded. A radiographic grade for each spinous process (T8–L6) was assigned (0–7). The maximum radiographic grade for each horse was defined as the highest grade assigned to any spinous process; the total radiographic grade was the sum of all grades for each horse. A scintigraphic grade for each spinous process was determined (0–3). The maximum scintigraphic grade for each horse was defined as the highest grade assigned to any spinous process; the total scintigraphic grade was the sum of all grades for each horse. Associations between radiology and scintigraphy and age, gender, breed, height, weight, and discipline were analyzed statistically. The severity of radiographic lesions of the spinous processes was associated with the severity of scintigraphic abnormalities. The caudal thoracic spine (T14–T17) was most frequently affected. There was a significant breed and age effect, with Thoroughbreds and older horses having higher total and maximum radiographic grades. The severity of the lesions of the spinous processes was significantly associated with the presence of osteoarthritis of the articular process joints. It was concluded that there is a wide range of radiographic abnormalities of the spinous processes seen in horses with or without back pain. There is an association between radiographic and scintigraphic grades of the spinous processes.