Recent Diagnostic Advances

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Ultrasound For Sand Impactions
Intestinal sand buildups are often suspected as a cause of recurrent colics but difficult to prove. A rectal examination is difficult to do because of the location of the sand, and tests for detecting sand in the manure aren’t always reliable. Abdominal X-rays help in ponies and small horses but, with larger horses, the veterinarian can’t get good enough X-ray penetration with the equipment used on horse farms.

A study at the University of Helsinki, published in the Equine Veterinary Journal, compared radiographic findings with ultrasound exam findings in horses with and without sand accumulations. The accuracy of the ultrasound was 87.5% with larger collections of sand and 70% with smaller collections.

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MRIs For Tendon Injuries
A study funded by the Japan Racing Group and appearing in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science compared findings in problem tendons examined with ultrasound to those using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Acute injuries with hemorrhage and edema leaving the characteristic “black holes” noted on ultrasound were picked up equally well with both techniques. However, the MRI was superior in detecting areas of chronic scarring and spots where tendons may be weak/prone to recurrent injuries.

There has also been a great deal of interest lately in deep flexor tendon problems deep inside the foot and at its attachment to the coffin bone as a cause of hard to pinpoint chronic foot/heel pain — horses that block out partially but not completely on heel blocks and have unrevealing X-rays. MRI is the diagnostic imaging technique of choice for these injuries as well.

Diagnostic MRIs are becoming mainstream in small-animal medicine, with many private clinics offering the technology.?? On the equine front, interest in standing MRIs as a technique for unique 3-D imaging of tendons and joints is also growing rapidly.??For current availability, check with your nearest veterinary school radiology department about MRIs.