MRI for Localized Fetlock Lameness Diagnosis

One researcher noted that some defects not visible on radiographs (X rays) were easily identified via MRI.
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Your performance horse is lame, and while your veterinarian has narrowed the problem down to the animal’s fetlock, no abnormalities are visible on radiographs (X rays). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has long been used as a diagnostic tool for lameness and performance issues in horses, and your vet says that’s an option. Could that modality help uncover something in the fetlock that radiographs couldn’t? According to one research team, it’s entirely possible.

Jennifer King, DVM, a former equine orthopedic sports medicine fellow at the WSU Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and colleagues completed a retrospective study on MRI findings in localized lameness cases. She presented the results at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas. (Editor’s Note: Learn more about the technology behind MRIs in Review of Available MRI Systems on

"Recently results were compiled from a group of horses (that underwent an MRI procedure either) at Washington State University from 1997 to 2009 or Oakridge Equine Hospital in Edmond, Okla., from 2004 to 2009," King explained.

King et al. reviewed records of 244 horses with lameness localized to the fetlock using clinical signs or local diagnostic anesthesia (nerve blocks). Each horse underwent MRI examination so the clinicians could determine a definitive diagnosis. King also noted each horse’s breed and riding discipline

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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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