We are a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) approved equine hospital.
MRI is a diagnostic imaging technique that involves placing the part of the body to be imaged inside a strong magnetic field. Pulses of radio waves are applied to the area, and a signal (also in the form of radio waves) is received by a computer which generates the image.
MRI is a relatively new technique in equine medicine. At Bell Equine we have a MRI scanner that can be used to image the lower leg area (from foot to knee or hock) of standing horses. Our clinic was the first veterinary clinic in the world to use this technology (the first scanner was installed in 2002, and has since been upgraded). Prior to this MRI could only be undertaken in horses at a few centres around the world using human MRI scanners. The standing equine MRI scanner has considerable advantages over more conventional human MRI scanners, which required the horse to be placed under general anaesthesia. Our clinic has played a central role in developing this technology for clinical use in horses, and we have acquired unrivalled expertise in this area.
The standing equine MRI scanner is a low field (0.27 Tesla) scanner. Horses are scanned standing under sedation. The front shoes (or the hind shoes if the hind legs are being scanned) need to be removed prior to the scan. The entire scanning procedure takes between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the area being scanned and the temperament of the horse, however, in some complicated cases, the procedure may take even longer than this. As far as it is known, the procedure is perfectly safe and it does not involve exposure to any form of ionising radiation.
MRI allows evaluation of both bone and soft tissues at the same time. The technique has specific indications for the evaluation of certain types of lameness. However, the area being scanned must be localised (usually by means of nerve blocks) prior to the procedure taking place.
One of the most useful indications for standing MRI is in the evaluation of horses with lameness originating in the foot. Our experience has shown that many horses with chronic foot lameness affecting either one or both front feet, have a variety of concurrent soft tissue injuries. These particular injuries cannot be accurately diagnosed using more conventional techniques. MRI has also proven to be very accurate in diagnosing many bone diseases (including early navicular disease and pedal bone diseases) that are difficult or impossible to diagnose in any other way.
MRI also has many applications in evaluating other diseases in the lower legs and our knowledge concerning its value is expanding all the time.
In view of our interests in researching the applications of MRI to lameness diagnosis in horses, we are always interested in hearing how individual horses have fared after they have returned home from having a MRI scan. We may contact owners in the future to find out how the horse has got on.
Equine MRI is still in its infancy, and it continues to reveal new conditions that it is discovering all the time. An important way of increasing our knowledge is by correlating the results of MRI and post-mortem examinations. If, for any reason, a horse that has previously had an MRI scan has to be euthanased, then we would welcome the opportunity to perform a post-mortem examination of the scanned area. In this way we can further increase our knowledge and expertise for the benefit of horses in the future.
If you have any further questions or require more information, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 01622 813700 and ask for the hospital team.