Equine temporomandibular joint (TMJ) diseases are increasingly recognized as a problem for the well-being and performance of horses. Diagnosis is confounded by overlap of clinical signs associated with pathology of the oral cavity, poll, and cervical vertebrae. Arthrocentesis for intra-articular analgesia, sampling of synovial fluid, and medication is needed for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Ultrasound features of the normal TMJ and a blind arthrocentesis technique have been described, but a systematic approach to ultrasound-guided (USG) arthrocentesis has not been reported. Ultrasound guidance allows visualization of the TMJ that may prove beneficial in cases when pathology, abnormal anatomy, or clinician inexperience make blind arthrocentesis difficult. We hypothesized that USG arthrocentesis would result in fewer needle repositions than blind arthrocentesis. We also aimed to assess synovial fluid parameters for normal equine TMJs. A prospective randomized method comparison with crossover experimental design compared the number of needle positionings required for accurate injection of the TMJ using each technique. Arthrocentesis technique and operator experience were tested using cadavers and two operators. Injection success was confirmed using CT. The radiologist then applied both techniques in normal live horses. No statistically significant difference was noted between arthrocentesis techniques or operators (P >.05). No complications were observed in live horses following either technique. Synovial fluid parameters were largely within the normal range expected for other synovial joints. Either blind or USG arthrocentesis of the equine TMJ can be performed with minimal prior operator experience. Ultrasound-guided arthrocentesis is an alternative method and can be considered in cases with altered anatomy.
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