A diagnostic pathologist’s guide to carpal disease in racehorses

Julie B. Engiles, Holly Stewart, Jennifer Janes, Laura A. Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


As a pathologist, postmortem examination of the equine carpus can be daunting. The anatomy is complex and oftentimes, small or subtle lesions have significant impact on lameness and secondary lesions such as catastrophic musculoskeletal fractures and other injuries. In performance horses, particularly racehorses, the carpus is a common site of injury and source of lameness. Given the predisposition of racehorses to developing carpal disease, familiarity with clinically relevant anatomy and common developmental, degenerative, traumatic, and inflammatory processes are imperative for thorough postmortem examination. Our aim is (1) to provide a concise summary of clinically relevant anatomy and function that serves as a guide for postmortem evaluation of the equine carpus, and (2) to review common carpal injuries and diseases in actively training, racing, or retired racehorses, including developmental lesions (incomplete ossification, osteochondromata), infectious and inflammatory lesions (septic arthritis and tenosynovitis), and degenerative and traumatic lesions (degenerative and traumatic osteoarthritis, osteochondral fragmentation, and polyostotic catastrophic “breakdown” fractures). Representative gross and histologic images are presented along with corresponding antemortem and postmortem diagnostic images, and a review of current scientific literature pertaining to the pathogenesis of these equine carpal lesions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-430
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 The Author(s).


  • Articular cartilage
  • bone
  • carpus
  • equine
  • fracture
  • horses
  • joint
  • orthopedic
  • osteochondral
  • racehorses
  • subchondral
  • synovium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Veterinary (all)


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