The widths of spaces between the thoracolumbar processi spinosi (interspinous spaces) are frequently assessed using radiography in sports horses; however effects of varying X-ray beam angles and geometric distortion have not been previously described. The aim of this prospective, observational study was to determine whether X-ray beam angle has an effect on apparent widths of interspinous spaces. Thoracolumbar spine specimens were collected from six equine cadavers and left-right lateral radiographs and sagittal and dorsal reconstructed computed tomographic (CT) images were acquired. Sequential radiographs were acquired with each interspinous space in focus. Measurements were performed for each interspinous space in the focus position and up to eight angled positions as the interspinous space moved away from focus (±). Focus position measurements were compared to matching sagittal CT measurements. Effect of geometric distortion was evaluated by comparing the interspinous space in radiographs with sagittal and dorsal reconstructed CT images. A total of 49 interspinous spaces were sampled, yielding 274 measurements. X-ray beam angle significantly affected measured width of interspinous spaces in position +3 (P = 0.038). Changes in width did not follow a consistent pattern. Interspinous space widths in focus position were significantly smaller in radiographs compared to matching reconstructed CT images for backs diagnosed with kissing spine syndrome (P < 0.001). Geometric distortion markedly affected appearance of interspinous space width between planes. In conclusion, X-ray beam angle and geometric distortion influence radiographically measured widths of interspinous spaces in the equine thoracolumbar spine, and this should be taken into consideration when evaluating sport horses.
Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound, 2017, Vol 58, Issue 2