Osteoporosis associated with pulmonary silicosis in an equine bone fragility syndrome

A. M. Arens, B. Barr, S. M. Puchalski, Robert H Poppenga, R. M. Kulin, J. Anderson, Susan M Stover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


California horses incur a bone fragility syndrome manifested by pathologic fractures. This study investigated gross, radiographic, and histologic features of the disorder as well as relationships with silicosis and levels of heavy metals and trace minerals through a postmortem study of 9 affected and 3 unaffected horses. Bones and soft tissues were evaluated grossly and histologically. Bones, lymph nodes, and lung tissue were evaluated radiographically. Tissues were evaluated for silicon levels, intracytoplasmic crystals, heavy metals, and trace minerals. All 9 affected horses had osteoporosis and clinical or subclinical pulmonary disease due to silicosis (8/9) or pneumoconiosis (1/9). All affected horses had radiographic findings consistent with osteopenia and histologic evidence of osteoporosis characterized by osteopenia, numerous resorption cavities, cement lines, and a mosaic lamellar pattern indicative of multiple remodeling events. Silicosis was characterized by widespread pulmonary granuloma formation with fibrosis; variable tracheobronchiolar and mediastinal granulomatous lymphadenitis; intracellular crystals within lung and lymph node macrophages; and pronounced lymph node fibrosis, focal necrosis, and dystrophic calcification. Crystals in lung (6/9) and lymph node (8/9) tissues were identified as cytotoxic silica dioxide polymorphs. Lung and liver tissue from affected horses had elevated levels of elemental silicon. Osteoporosis was highly correlated (r = 0.8, P <01) with silicosis. No abnormalities in heavy metal or trace minerals were detected. This evaluation indicated that horses with bone fragility disorder have systemic osteoporosis associated with fibrosing pulmonary silicosis. The etiopathogenesis of the bone fragility syndrome is unknown; however, this study provides circumstantial evidence for a silicate associated osteoporosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)593-615
Number of pages23
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • cristobalite
  • equine
  • granulomatous lymphadenitis
  • granulomatous pneumonia
  • metabolic bone disease
  • osteoporosis
  • pulmonary silicosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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