Hallmarq Standing Equine MRI Unit enables accurate diagnoses without the need for general anaesthesia
CVS Endell Equine Hospital has invested in the latest Hallmarq Standing Equine MRI (sMRI) unit to quickly and accurately diagnose the specific causes of lameness in horses.
The imaging equipment facilitates the imaging of soft tissue injuries and diseases to the highest detail. This offers the clearest diagnosis and facilitates the appropriate prognosis and treatment recommendations.
The sMRI unit can perform scans from the hoof to carpus (“knee”) or tarsus (“hock”) region in most horses, including the proximal suspensory ligament. The standing system avoids the need for general anaesthesia, required by the conventional ‘down’ MRI, to reduce the risk to the patient.
The sMRI imaging modality helps to diagnose lameness when radiographs or ultrasound are inconclusive or further detail is required.
It allows Endell Equine Hospital vets to;
- diagnose disease in the distal limb, when more conventional imaging techniques are unclear; provide accurate diagnosis of navicular disease, which is known since the advent of MRI to be multifactorial;
- identify subtle lesions such as bone inflammation and early onset degenerative joint disease;
- aid in emergencies when additional assessment to radiography is necessary, for example with penetrating injuries or fractures.
It can also detect early indicators of increased fracture risk before a fracture occurs – so that training can be modified to prevent injury, and to monitor the progress of injury healing and rehabilitation treatment – in order to speed up a return to competition.
All of these advantages allow more targeted and appropriate treatment, by having a specific diagnosis.
The patented Hallmarq Standing Equine MRI (sMRI) is housed within a purpose-built modular unit.
It is specifically designed to image the limbs of standing horses, under only standing sedation. It captures clear and optimised images for a more accurate diagnosis.
The patented design incorporates an open magnet, equine-specific radiofrequency coils, an acquisition computer and a patient handling area.
The MRI equipment also includes motion correction software, to compensate for any slight movement of the limb during image acquisition. The software gives vets an array of MRI imaging sequence options, depending on the disease and anatomical area being imaged.
The standing MRI takes approximately one hour per foot or 30-40 minutes per fetlock, if the horse stands completely still and does not move.
There is less of a time pressure compared to conventional MRI, as the horses are standing. The horse is not under general anaesthesia, which is important, as general anaesthesia typically carries a higher risk in horses compared to other species – with the risk and expense increasing with increased duration.
Reports are prepared by a Diplomate in Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging and are available within 48 hours. Typically, around 75% of the scans performed in the sMRI systems are feet.
MRI is considered the gold-standard in imaging in horses for soft tissue injuries. It has long been the imaging method of choice in human medicine, as a result of its diagnostic capability. MRI is cross-sectional imaging with a high contrast resolution and offers a diagnostic rate of over 90%.
Previously, the outcome of a conventional lameness workup was a horse that blocks to a certain region but might not have visible changes on radiographs or ultrasound. Response to treatment may have been the only way to confirm or refute a suspected diagnosis, and the horse may have had to repeatedly return to the clinic for further examination. This pathway costs both time and money, with the patient not getting better.
Andrew Jones, Clinical Director and Surgeon at CVS Endell Equine Hospital said:
Our MRI unit offers significant benefits over our previous imaging capabilities, such as radiographs and ultrasound.
“It offers the highest soft tissue imaging detail possible and unlocks certain diagnoses for us now that were never possible previously. This enables us to make the most accurate diagnosis for our equine patients and means our treatment plans can be more specific and targeted.
“Since the unit has been installed we have been able to offer a higher standard of care to horses who come to see us.”
In addition to the sMRI unit, Endell Equine Hospital upgraded its nuclear scintigraphy equipment a couple of years ago, to acquire high quality bone scan images for musculoskeletal disorders.
Scintigraphy, aka bone scan, remains a very useful diagnostic modality to image certain types of pathology – for example, stress fractures, or image certain regions – for example, the vertebral column within the back or the pelvis.
Horses are imaged with the equipment in a single session, enabling Endell Equine Hospital to narrow down any regions requiring further investigation. Both pieces of equipment are additional diagnostic imaging services offered by Endell Equine Hospital to referring vets.
CVS Group operates across small animal, farm animal, equine, laboratories and crematoria, with over 500 veterinary practices, referral centres and sites in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands. In the last five years, the company has invested nearly £80 million in its sites, facilities and equipment, in addition to industry-leading training and support, to give the best possible care to animals.
For further information, please visit Endelle Equine Hospital Website.