Subchondral bone failure in overload arthrosis: A scanning electron microscopic study in horses

Robert W. Norrdin, Susan M Stover

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45 Scopus citations


Mechanical overload leads to a common arthrosis in the metacarpal condyle of the fetlock joint of racehorses. This is usually asymptomatic but severe forms can cause lameness. Subchondral bone failure is often present and the predictability of the site provided an opportunity to study of the progression of bone failure from microcracks to actual collapse of subchondral bone. Twenty-five fetlock condyles from racehorses with various stages of disease were selected. Stages ranged from mild through severe subchondral bone sclerosis, to the collapse of bone and indentation or loss of cartilage known as 'traumatic osteochondrosis'. Parasagittal slices were radiographed and examined with scanning electron microscopy. Fine matrix cracks were seen in the subchondral bone layer above the calcified cartilage and suggested loss of water or other non-collagenous components. The earliest microcracks appeared to develop in the sclerotic bone within 1-3 mm of the calcified cartilage layer and extend parallel to it in irregular branching lines. Longer cracks or microfractures appeared to develop gaps as fragmentation occurred along the margins. Occasional osteoclastic resorption sites along the fracture lines indicated activated remodeling may have caused previous weakening. In one sample, smoothly ground fragments were found in a fracture gap. Bone collapse occurred when there was compaction of the fragmented matrix along the microfacture. Bone collapse and fracture lines through the calcified cartilage were associated with indentation of articular cartilage at the site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-257
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Musculoskeletal Neuronal Interactions
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Arthrosis
  • Equine
  • Microfracture
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Subchondral bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Endocrinology


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