Radiographic anatomy of the articular process joints of the caudal cervical vertebrae in the horse on lateral and oblique projections

Equine Vet J. 2009 Dec;41(9):895-902. doi: 10.2746/042516409x434107.


Reasons for performing study: Plain radiography is the standard imaging technique for investigation of diseases associated with the articular process joints (APJ) of the caudal neck; however, the radiographic anatomy of these structures on both lateral and oblique radiographic projections has not previously been described in detail.

Objectives: To determine the optimal technique for obtaining oblique radiographs of the APJ of the caudal cervical vertebrae (C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7) and to provide a detailed description of their normal radiographic appearance, on both lateral and oblique radiographic projections.

Methods: Radiopaque markers were used to highlight the contours of the APJ on both lateral and oblique radiographs. A novel cineradiographic technique was employed to determine the optimal oblique projection to permit both left and right APJ to be assessed on the same radiograph. Lateral and oblique radiographs of the caudal neck were obtained in 6 live horses under standing sedation to assess the feasibility of the technique.

Results: The radiopaque markers facilitated identification of the APJ by clearly outlining the margins of the cranial and caudal articular processes on lateral and oblique radiographs. The optimal range of angles for obtaining oblique radiographs was 50-55 degrees for C4-5, 45-55 degrees for C5-6 and 45-5 degrees for C6-7. Obtaining oblique radiographs within the specified range of angles resulted in a consistent radiographic image of the APJ in the caudal cervical region in the live individual.

Conclusions and potential relevance: The description of the normal radiographic anatomy of the cervical APJ of the caudal neck region in horses provides a valuable reference for the interpretation of cervical radiographs. Using the standardised technique to obtain oblique radiographs of the equine cervical vertebrae may provide additional diagnostic information about the APJ.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cervical Vertebrae / anatomy & histology
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contrast Media
  • Horses / anatomy & histology*
  • Radiography


  • Contrast Media