Material available for research into osteochondrosis (OC) in humans tends to represent chronic lesions. Comparative studies of early lesions in young animals are, therefore, important in clarifying the pathogenesis of OC in humans. Recent studies in pigs provide strong evidence that lesions of articular OC are associated with a focal failure in the cartilage canal vascular supply to epiphyseal growth cartilage (articular-epiphyseal cartilage complex excluding the articular cartilage). The purpose of the present study was to examine histological sections from a specific predilection site for articular OC in the distal tibia of a large number of young foals to determine if the same is true in horses. Material from the distal tibiae of 100 foals aged from 191 days of gestation to 153 days old was collected from routine submissions of fetuses and foals for post mortem examination. The tibiae were band-sawed into slabs, and selected slabs were processed for histology, stained with hematoxylin and eosin, and examined using light microscopy. Early subclinical developmental stages of OC were found in the most common site for clinical OC lesions of horses in nine of 100 foals aged 12 to 122 days old. All lesions contained areas of chondrocyte necrosis that were associated with cartilage canal necrosis in five of nine foals. Five of these foals also had focal disruption of enchondral ossification at the chondro-osseous junction in the same site. Early lesions purported to play a role in the initial stages of articular OC in the distal tibia of horses were characterized by chondrocyte necrosis and likely occurred secondary to a failure of cartilage canal vascular supply to epiphyseal growth cartilage. The similarities in appearance between early lesions of piglets and foals suggest that information gained in one species may be transferable to others, including humans.
- Cartilage canals