CT for Equine Limb Fracture Diagnosis? (AAEP 2012)

One veterinarian believes CT offers a better option for imaging some lower limb fractures than radiography.

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A fracture can put a horse’s athletic future–sometimes even his life–on the line, and basing treatment on a complete and accurate diagnosis can make a major difference in the horse’s recovery. A veterinarian in Belgium believes computed tomography (CT) offers a better option for imaging some lower limb fractures than radiography.

At the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif., Casper Crijns, DVM, presented a study comparing radiographs and CT–which can provide detailed 3-D images of bone and damage within it–for diagnosing equine distal limb fractures.

Crijns, a researcher at the Ghent University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in Belgium, said that veterinarians often use radiography as a first-line diagnostic modality when they suspect limb fractures, but they must assess several different views to make a diagnosis. Superimposition (anatomical structures overlapping each other in a two-dimensional image) and fracture complexity can complicate diagnosis. Crijns says in his experience, bone damage is often underestimated when evaluated radiographically.

On the other hand, he said, CT creates cross-sectional images of the limbs (allowing a 3-D evaluation), which eliminates the superimposition problem and allows the veterinarian to see the fracture better. In most cases, practitioners must place horses under general anesthesia for CT, and they can only evaluate the head and limbs with this modality because of unit size

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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