Ultrasonographic comparison of the intermediate patellar ligament in warmbloods versus quarter horses

Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 2023 Jan 12. doi: 10.1111/vru.13212. Online ahead of print.


Striations are present on ultrasonography of the intermediate (middle) patellar ligament in the transverse plane, which can be confused with tears. Comparison to the contralateral limb is often performed to help differentiate anatomic variation from pathologic change. The purposes of this prospective, observational study were to describe the striation patterns in Warmbloods and Quarter Horses, determine if these patterns are bilaterally symmetrical, and compare striation characteristics between Warmbloods and Quarter Horses. The intermediate patellar ligaments of six Warmblood horses and six Quarter horses, free from clinical signs of hindlimb lameness and in full work, were examined ultrasonographically. Striation pattern, striation number, and the transverse-sectional areas for intermediate patellar ligaments were compared between Warmbloods and Quarter horses. Striation patterns were also compared for the left and right limbs of each horse. A significant difference between breeds was identified at the mid-portion of the intermediate patellar ligament when both left and right ligaments were included (P = 0.02) and when comparing the right intermediate patellar ligament (P = 0.02). There were no other significant breed differences, and a parallel pattern was the most common pattern type. Two-thirds of the horses in this study had bilaterally symmetrical patterns within the distal aspect of their intermediate patellar ligaments, while one-third of the population were asymmetric. These results show that comparison of the contralateral limb during ultrasonography to determine if changes within the distal aspect of the intermediate patellar ligament are normal striations versus tears may lead to misdiagnosis in one-third of horses, regardless of breed. Other signs of pathology on ultrasonography should be used instead.

Keywords: equine; middle patellar ligament; stifle.