High-field (3 Tesla) MRI of the navicular apparatus of sound horses shows good agreement to histopathology
Magnetic resonance imaging and the correlation to histopathological findings of the equine palmar foot of lame horses have been described previously, using 0.27 and 1.5 T systems. Compared to these, 3 T systems provide superior spatial resolution and imaging contrast. The aim of our prospective anatomic study was to characterize the imaging anatomy of the navicular region on 3 T MRI in comparison to histopathological findings. We hypothesized that 3 T MRI allows a good visualization of the entire navicular apparatus and reliable measurements of navicular cartilage and cortical bone thickness. Twenty front feet of sound horses were examined using a 3 T MRI system. For histopathological examination, sagittal tissue sections of the navicular bones and adjacent ligaments were prepared. Alterations in magnetic resonance signal were graded for each region and compared to corresponding histological slices. Overall, there was good visualization of the anatomical detail and a very good agreement between MRI and histology for compact bone and spongiosa, good agreement for the fibrocartilage and the distal sesamoidean impar ligament, but only moderate agreement for the hyaline cartilage and the collateral sesamoidean ligament. A comparative measurement of cartilage and cortical bone thickness on magnetic resonance images and histological sections was performed. In MRI, the hyaline cartilage of the articular surface appeared significantly thinner and the fibrocartilage of the flexor surface appeared significantly thicker compared to histology. Findings indicated that MRI at a field strength of 3 T allows reliable depiction of anatomic details of the navicular apparatus.