Objectives - To establish reference mechanical nociceptive threshold (MNT) values of the equine thoracic limb and to assess the use of MNT values to detect pain associated with induced osteoarthritis in the middle carpal joint. Animals - 24 adult horses. Procedures - MNT values were evoked by a pressure algometer at 17 sites within each thoracic limb during 2 baseline sessions conducted an average of 5 days apart. Effects of age, sex, weight, and wither height on MNT values were assessed separately for each site. Tolerance of horses to the procedure was graded subjectively and correlated with MNT values. Synovitis and osteoarthritis were induced arthroscopically in the middle carpal joint of 1 randomly selected thoracic limb. The opposite limb served as a sham-operated control limb. Mechanical nociceptive threshold values were recorded weekly and correlated with clinical, radiographic, and necropsy scores measured over 10 weeks. Lower MNT values corresponded with increased pain, whereas higher MNT values indicated reduced pain. Results - A gradual increase in MNT values was detected from proximal-to-distal sites of the thoracic limbs. High MNT values were recorded for geldings and tall horses. In general, tolerance to procedure scores was positively correlated with overall pooled MNT values within each thoracic limb. From 2 to 6 weeks after surgery, the osteoarthritic limb had significantly reduced MNT values within the carpal region. The osteoarthritic limb also had significant changes in clinical examination, radiographic, and necropsy scores, which were poorly correlated with MNT values. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - Pressure algometry provided objective assessment of nociception of the thoracic limb; however, MNT values were poorly correlated with clinical variables used to assess osteoarthritis.
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