Welfare And Safety Summit: Using Imaging To Prevent And Diagnose Injury Is Part Science and Part Art

POSTED ON  |  17-05-2020

Standing MRI scan
When it comes to diagnosing and preventing injury, the job of interpreting diagnostics is as much art as it is science, according to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital diagnostic imaging expert Dr. Katie Garrett. Garrett reviewed common injuries of the fetlock  in the first of a series of webcasts held this week in place of the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, along with a quick review of the imaging technologies available for diagnosis.

Garrett said there is not yet an imaging modality that is inexpensive, quick, portable, detailed, and does not require general anesthesia – with most, you get four out of the five parameters, maximum. Radiography and ultrasound meet all of these qualifications except for the high level of detail, which is more readily available in more complex technologies like PET and MRI, which is why they're used as a first-round screening tool when a horse is lame. MRI and PET scans provide much more detailed information, but cannot be taken stallside. PET scans on horses are also comparatively new and veterinarians are still learning about the best contexts to use them. Sometimes, the complexity of a more detailed image like MRI, PET, or bone scans lies in the interpretation.

Garrett stressed that while these technologies can give provide information about what's going on inside a horse's leg, there's still a lot of individual variability to the way the horse handles it.  She used POD, or palmar/plantar osteochondral disease, as an example.

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