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subchondral bone cyst of stifle. *New Question!*

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  • subchondral bone cyst of stifle. *New Question!*

    Hi all, I've have had 2 different vets come out now and both came up with the same diagnosis for the reason of my horses hindlimb lameness. Hock arthritis (for which I thought he was fused, but I guess still not fully in the Distal Intertarsal Joint (DIT).

    Lameness showed no improvement after injections. Out of curiosity and for peace of my own mind I had the vet come out to ultrasound the stifle (even though he knew it was an unlikely source of the lameness) and found no significant findings.

    I trust the diagnosis that has been made but it does make me wonder about bone cysts of the stifle. I know they occur mostly in younger horses just starting work, but read they can also be occur in older horses.

    my question regarding this is : Can only x-rays effectively rule out bone cysts of the stifle?

    *New Question*
    : Is there usually swelling and joint effusion/fluid when a bone cyst in the stifle is present?

    Last edited by TheHorseComesFirst; Apr. 18, 2013, 09:57 PM. Reason: new question

  • #2


    • #3
      Xrays is how the vet clinic found bone cyst in my TB's stifle.
      "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


      • #4
        Be sure to Xray both sides.

        The ones you are thinking of-- in young horses-- are congenital. I don't know if they can emerge in middle age. Trauma to a joint can produce a single bone cyst in that one. IMO, if you had a cyst in just one stifle, you'd see a more obvious lameness.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the replies. Can an ultrasound in any way be able to find a cyst? I am just a little cautious of the diagnosis (though I WOULD much rather it be hock pain from arthritis than involve the stifle)

          it seems as though my horse gets better with rest and worse with increased movement somehow, which seems counterintuitive for it being arthritis since generally I though Arthritis is better with movement.

          I know the vet most likely knows the difference between a stifle lameness and a hock lameness and diagnosed correctly, but I don't want to leave a stone unturned and do more damage.


          • #6
            Originally posted by TheHorseComesFirst View Post
            Thanks for the replies. Can an ultrasound in any way be able to find a cyst? I am just a little cautious of the diagnosis (though I WOULD much rather it be hock pain from arthritis than involve the stifle)

            it seems as though my horse gets better with rest and worse with increased movement somehow, which seems counterintuitive for it being arthritis since generally I though Arthritis is better with movement.

            I know the vet most likely knows the difference between a stifle lameness and a hock lameness and diagnosed correctly, but I don't want to leave a stone unturned and do more damage.
            I was told yes sometimes - if it's in a certain location. However radiographs are obviously a better diagnostic tool for ruling out/confirming subchondral cysts.

            They are frequently bilateral, so if you find one, you'll want to shoot the other side as well.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for the replies! I am bumping this up, since now I have a new question (in original post in blue).


              • #8
                My gelding with a calliflowered OCD in his stifle had efusion and some swelling.

                Does your horse have straignt (post legged) hind leg conformation? If so, you might want to read this thread, page 2 first. Injections with no response is a clue to check for cunean tendon bursa adhesion across the front of the hock.
                Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


                • #9
                  It might be best at this point to try and find the region of pain instead of randomly searching for a diagnosis. Diagnostic anesthesia of stifle will rule in or out stifle pain in about 30 minutes. You can do all these diagnostics and find issues that don't cause any pain and try and treat them while the real Undiagnosed issue continues to cause pain.

                  Honestly, my next goal would be to try and block out the lameness... Starting with the foot.

                  As a side note, failure of hock injections doesn't rule out hocks as the source of pain.

                  I hope you get a quick and fixable diagnosis!


                  • Original Poster

                    Plumcreek: I will check into the link. Thank you.

                    Flyracing: he did have a high 4 point block (which blocks the whole limb below the hock except the origin of suspensory) with no improvement in lameness. vet was pretty certain that the lameness was within he hock so he didn't block the stifle.( though I wish I insisted)

                    i've read that bone cysts in the stifle may or may not improve lameness and x-ray is the best way to rule it out.

                    Thanks for the information!

                    I think I will have a vet out again. *sigh*


                    • #11
                      i couldn't tell you about the stifle, but when my mare's bone cyst in her hock became a problem, she was pretty lame suddenly and there was swelling. not a considerable amount, but there was definitely fill there


                      • #12
                        I do not think bone cysts can be seen in the stifle via ultrasound unless they are directly on the surface of the bone, since ultrasound waves do not penetrate bone density.

                        X-rays are what you need.

                        Why do you think your horse has a cyst in his stifle?


                        • #13
                          My horse that has a stifle subchondral cyst actually had a stifle ultrasound today. The cyst was very visible on the US. Most subchondral cysts I've seen come to the surface of the bone or very close to it. Her stifle was flexed when they were imaging this area (similar position to a hind leg on a hoof stand)

                          If your horse does have one diagnosed via radiographs, an ultrasound is a good idea as it can give you more info on the condition of the cartilage.