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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

MRI is a diagnostic imaging technique that involves placing the part of the body to be imaged inside a strong magnetic field. This is a relatively new technique in equine medicine that can be used to image the lower part of the leg in 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) and has played a central role in its development. Prior to this MRI could only be undertaken in horses at a few centres around the world using human MRI scanners under general anaesthesia. 

The standing equine MRI scanner uses low magnetic field (0.27 Tesla) technology and horses are scanned standing under sedation. Both front and / or hind shoes (depending on the affected limbs) need to be removed prior to undertaking the procedure. The entire scanning process (from preparation to scanning) usually takes between 3 and 5 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. In most cases the area being scanned must be accurately localised by means of nerve blocks, prior to the procedure taking place as scanning even a small region (eg the feet) will take several hours.

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 have a variety of concurrent soft tissue injuries. These particular injuries cannot be accurately diagnosed using more conventional techniques (X-ray or ultrasound). MRI has also proven to be very accurate in diagnosing some bone diseases which can be 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.