Regional variation in digital cushion pressure in the forefeet of horses and elephants

Warner, S E and Henry, V and Roskilly, K and Hildebrandt, T and Panagiotopoulou, O and Hutchinson, J R (2014) Regional variation in digital cushion pressure in the forefeet of horses and elephants. PeerJ Preprints.

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In this study, we seek to understand how the digital cushion morphologies evident in horse and elephant feet influence internal and external foot pressures. Our novel use of invasive blood pressure monitoring equipment, combined with a pressure pad and force plate, enabled measurements of (ex vivo) digital cushion pressure under increasing axial loads in seven horse and six elephant forefeet. Linear mixed effects models (LMER) revealed that internal digital cushion pressures increase under load and differ depending on region; elephant feet experienced higher magnitudes of medial digital cushion pressure, whereas horse feet experienced higher magnitudes of centralised digital cushion pressure. Direct comparison of digital cushion pressure magnitudes in both species, at equivalent loads relative to body weight, revealed that medial and lateral pressures increased more rapidly with load in elephant limbs. Within the same approximate region, internal pressures exceeded external, palmar pressures (on the sole of the foot), supporting previous Finite Element (FE) predictions. High pressures and large variations in pressure may relate to the development of foot pathology, which is a major concern in horses and elephants in a captive/domestic environment.

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