Equine MRI Scanning

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an imaging modality that uses magnetic forces within the patient’s cells to create a two-dimensional image. The high-quality images enable us to see bone and soft tissue structures in unparalleled detail. Additionally, we can obtain information about the underlying disease process from the MRI image.

The most common MRI scanner is the standing MRI unit. It has some advantages and disadvantages. When using a standing MRI unit, the joint and soft tissue can appear differently than when the horse is not bearing weight. In addition, even the slightest movement from the horse increases the likelihood of a poor image, possibly resulting in a misdiagnosis of the issue and an ineffective treatment. Nothing is more frustrating to us veterinarians!

As a result, the horse could remain in pain and the owner will be out the expense of the standing MRI scan as well as the time and expense of the incomplete treatment. It’s one of the biggest reasons that we receive referrals from other veterinarians. They want the best quality images. We work together for the well-being of your horse. This is why our equine vets invested in the Esaote MRI scanner.

Diagnosing using the Esaote MRI Scanner for Horses

Since 2004, Cave Creek Equine Surgical & Imaging Center has been providing the most advanced level of MRI imaging for horses and small animals. To ensure our clients get the best care, we purchased a state-of-the-art, open rotating magnet, Esaote Vet-MR Grande XL and built a customized room at our facility for that purpose.

Horses and small animals are anesthetized by our experienced staff members during the imaging process to ensure that there is no movement to lessen the quality of the image and to ensure the safety of your horse. All acquired images are evaluated by our highly trained veterinarians as well as by board-certified radiologists for a complete interpretation.

The Esaote MRI scan versus the Standing MRI

Our Esaote MRI scanner, which removes the movement factor because the horse is under general anesthesia, allows us to accurately identify where injuries to soft tissue and bone are occurring without question. What we’ve learned from our MRI scans is that there can be as many as four to six injuries found in a foot due to injury dissipation, not just one.

In addition, our MRI unit is able to image large areas such as the horse’s stifle, head and parts of their neck which would be impossible in a standing unit. With its amazing versatility and ability to rotate, our MRI can also accommodate small animals to help diagnose neurological problems as well as orthopedic or soft tissue injuries.

What can be missed in a standing MRI scan?

The following injuries in this 4 year old gelding had been missed by the standing MRI scan. Without knowing about these injuries, it’s likely treatment would have been ineffective, resulting in continued pain for the horse and expense for the owner.

  1. Distal cannon bone contusion
  2. Trauma in the sesamoid bones behind the fetlock joint
  3. Cartilage thinning and damage at the front back of the cannon bone in the fetlock joint
  4. Injury of the intersesamoidean ligament
  5. Injury of the collateral ligament of the fetlock joint

Lame Gelding Success Story

The gelding above suffered from an acute onset of left fetlock pain with swelling and lameness. Radiographs showed vague signs of bone trauma and the horse was stall rested for 8 weeks.

However, the horse remained lame at the walk with severe pain when attempting to flex the joint. Ultrasound and radiographs were unremarkable and the owner elected a standing MRI of the fetlock from their veterinarian. Interpretation of that study by a well-respected radiologist was that there were not enough findings to explain the degree of lameness. Again, this is very frustrating to all involved.

The horse was then scanned with our Esaote Vet-MR Grande XL MRI scanner. The arrows and arrowheads in the pictures below show all of the injuries that were missed by the Hallmarq standing MRI scan.

As the case report illustrates, the Esaote MRI scanner is capable of obtaining images that can be more useful for diagnosing and treating your horse’s injuries.

, Equine MRI Scanning

No other diagnostic tool currently available can provide more detailed information regarding anatomic structures. The Esaote MRI scanner provides the data we need to create a successful treatment and rehabilitation plan for your horse.