The cross-sectional area changes in digital flexor tendons and suspensory ligament in foals by ultrasonographic examination

Equine Vet J. 2015 Sep;47(5):548-52. doi: 10.1111/evj.12330. Epub 2015 Feb 2.


Reasons for performing study: Flexural deformities are common conditions of growing horses and are suggested to have a relationship with the contraction of musculotendinous units. However, limited studies have documented the changes in each tendon and ligament in the metacarpal region with age.

Objectives: To investigate the changes in the cross-sectional area (CSA) of each tendon and ligament in the metacarpal region with age by ultrasonographic examination.

Study design: Longitudinal study of foals from Day 1 to age 24 months.

Methods: The CSA of the superficial digital flexor tendon, deep digital flexor tendon, accessory ligament of the deep digital flexor tendon and suspensory ligament was measured by ultrasonographic examination at monthly intervals from Day 1 to age 24 months in 7 Thoroughbred foals.

Results: Changes in superficial digital flexor CSA in all regions were larger than those of other structures from 10 months to 15 months. The suspensory ligament CSA was significantly larger than those of other structures on Day 1 in both the region of suspensory origin (RSO) and region of suspensory body (RSBO). This condition continued until 2 months in the RSO and until 5 months in the RSBO. The changes in deep digital flexor CSA were larger than those of other structures from 2 to 5 months in both the RSO and RSBO.

Conclusions: The rate of change in each structure varies with age. Thus, the functional adaptation with age that takes place may differ among structures because the primary function of each structure differs.

Keywords: conformation change; distal limb; foal; horse; radiographic evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Forelimb / diagnostic imaging
  • Horses / growth & development*
  • Ligaments / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ligaments / growth & development*
  • Male
  • Tendons / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tendons / growth & development*
  • Ultrasonography