Why an Equine MRI?

The number one reason for needing an MRI scan is equine lameness. There are many factors that can cause this painful condition, such as issues with the soft tissue structure and bone injuries. Diagnosing lameness requires a keen understanding of equine anatomy and physiology, conformation and biomechanics. It also requires an understanding of horse types, uses, personalities, and owner needs. This complexity can make diagnosis a challenge without the right expertise and technology.

Although we do our very best to diagnose lameness issues with our other diagnostic tools, from radiography to ultrasonography, those tools cannot penetrate the hoof wall or give insight into the soft tissue areas and bone lesions such as bone edema, sclerosis, and hairline fractures. MRI scans are the best method for identifying the cause of foot pain as they allow us to inspect the structures deep within the hoof.

Dr. Martin Vidal and Dr. Fabio Aristizabal MRI scan

We also know that the proper diagnosis and treatment is critical to your horse’s recovery and getting you both back to what you love to do. An improper diagnosis leads to incorrect treatment, which can affect your horse’s health and its quality of life.

To ensure the highest quality of equine care, we purchased a state-of-the-art, open rotating magnet, Esaote Vet-MR Grande XL MRI scanner which provides high-quality images with longer scan times to ensure a clear view into the area of concern. We also  built a room customized to accomodate all of the equipment necessary to keep your horse safe during our diagnosis.

Although we could have purchased a Hallmarq standing MRI machine, we are well aware of the false negatives it can produce, meaning that the Hallmarq standing MRI does not always give you a true view into what’s happening at the site of lameness (thus leading to an improper diagnosis and treatments that do not work). Our clients and our patients mean too much to us for us to take the risk of using a standing MRI with substandard results.  We believe in doing things right the first time.

Since equine safety is our number one priority and we want the best images possible, our highly experienced staff members anesthetize the horse during the imaging process. This ensures there is no movement that might lessen the quality of the images. All acquired images are evaluated by our highly trained veterinarians as well as by board-certified radiologists for a complete interpretation.


For you, as the owner, requesting an Esaote MRI brings you peace of mind that you’re giving your horse the best chance of recovery.

For us, as their skilled equine specialists, the longer scan time  provided by our Esaote MRI scanner gives us the highest quality images in the industry. With the ability to inspect both bone and soft tissue, we can take a holistic approach in diagnosing your horse’s lameness. For the horse, it’s an increased chance of getting back to doing what they love with you, healthy and with excellent mobility.

The Esaote Vet-MR Grande XL here at Cave Creek Equine Sports Medicine & Surgery has the ability to provide unsurpassed images of the following horse anatomy:

  • Stifle
  • Carpus
  • Tarsus
  • Hock
  • Pastern
  • Fetlock
  • Foot
  • Head
  • Neck
  • Sinus
  • Teeth

A special moveable patient table is used to facilitate the positioning of the horse in the system, surrounded by our highly-trained equine veterinarians and staff.


We understand that budget might be a factor when deciding on whether or not to request an equine MRI. We ask that you consider the costs of the following when making this decision:

  • Repeated visits to your veterinarian to narrow down a diagnosis
  • The costs of having other diagnostic procedures done before an MRI
  • The costs of ineffective treatments
  • The amount of pain your horse is in for an extended period of time before  an accurate diagnosis can be made


f you’re like us, you want to know that you’ve done everything possible to ensure your horse’s long and healthy life with you. That’s why we invested in the best technology and training available to correctly evaluate, diagnose, and treat your horse’s lameness. If you or someone you know has a horse dealing with lameness or apparent pain, schedule an appointment today. Our team at Cave Creek Equine Sports Medicine & Surgery cares about the long-term health of your horse. We treat your horse as if it were our own.

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