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Chondromalacia of the Femoral Condyles in Horses

By Jane C. Boswell, MA, VetMB, CertVA, CertES (Orth), DECVS, MRCVS, The Liphook Equine Hospital

Chondromalacia of the femoral condyles is being increasingly recognized in sports horses. Horses typically present with poor performance or low grade, often bilateral, hindlimb lameness with pain referable to the stifle. Lameness or loss of performance usually becomes evident in younger horses as their work intensity increases. Frequently, there are no localizing signs, although mild effusion of the medial femorotibial and/or femoropatellar joints may be evident. Typically there are no radiologic or ultrasonographic signs evident. Arthroscopic examination of the femorotibial joints reveals abnormally soft, irregular, cracked, pitted, and poorly attached articular cartilage over all or part of the femoral condyles. Generally, the prognosis for sustained return to athletic soundness is guarded. More studies are required to determine the best form of surgical intervention in management of these horses.