Performance horse imaging

Accurate imaging is necessary in the sport horse for specific lesion diagnosis. Imaging tools commonly used in the equine athlete are MRI, ultrasound, digital radiography and scintigraphy. Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers all of these modalities, with CT coming soon. A board certified veterinary radiologist, Dr. Sarah Puchalski, oversees and reviews all of the advanced studies.

Specific modalities are largely selected based on the structure of interest. Digital radiographs are particularly useful for evaluation of bones and joints to assist with detection of abnormalities such as fractures or arthritis. Ultrasound is particularly useful for evaluation of soft tissue structures such as tendons, ligaments and meniscal damage. A recent development from ultrasound technology is ‘elastography’ which allows an observer to measure the stiffness of soft tissues. This is helpful in classifying injuries, and also guiding rehabilitation because it gives the veterinarian additional information regarding mechanical integrity of injured tissue, and the change in stiffness as it returns to normal following an injury. MRI and CT are both 3D imaging tools that are commonly performed. MRI is most useful for soft tissue injuries and has proven particularly helpful for the detection of soft tissue abnormalities within the hoof capsule. MRI of the limbs may be performed with the patient standing.

CT is considered more useful for bony lesions and is a preferred tool for fractures and rapid image acquisition of the head and sinuses. Scintigraphy involves the IV injection of a radiopharmaceutical that accumulates at sites of increased bony turnover. This may be a helpful screening tool, but is also particularly useful for the detection of stress fractures, bone contusions, SI disease, back arthritis, and many other lesions which may otherwise be difficult to detect.


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