Radiography, Scintigraphy, and MRI: Benefits and Pitfalls

Review the options vets have for looking inside horses’ bodies to see what’s causing a limp, swelling, or pain.

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Today, veterinarians have the ability to peer inside horses’ bodies and see what’s causing a limp, swelling, or pain. The use of radiography (X rays), nuclear scintigraphy (bone scan), and MRI in horses is practically commonplace. Unfortunately, choosing which tool to use and interpreting its results is not always black and white.

During the 2014 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention, held Dec. 6-10 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Carter Judy, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, discussed some benefits and pitfalls of these three imaging techniques.

"Each imaging modality has its own strengths and weaknesses," said Judy, who practices at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, in Los Olivos, California. "Knowing the caveats of each will help determine what modalities to use and how to interpret the findings."

Nuclear Scintigraphy Veterinarians can perform this simple and relatively noninvasive procedure with the patient standing under light sedation. It reveals areas of active bone remodeling, and practitioners typically use it to identify physiologic changes in bone and soft tissue, said Judy

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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