Review of Available MRI Systems

Not all MRI units are created equal. Learn about the differences in MRI units.

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a very powerful tool for imaging limbs and even heads of horses to detect injuries and other problems. However, not all MRI units are created equal; differences in field strength affect their price tags and their abilities to demonstrate lesions. During the 2007 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5, 2007 in Orlando, Fla., Natasha Werpy, DVM, Dipl. ACVR, assistant professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Colorado State University, presented a comparison of low- and high-field MRI systems.

"High-field systems have faster acquisition times and superior resolution; however, the substantial investment needed for purchase and maintenance make them prohibitive for many practices," she said. "Many injuries can be accurately characterized and diagnosed using a low-field MR system."

Field strength–High-field systems have a field strength of at least 1.0T (tesla; one tesla is approximately 20,000 times the strength of the earth’s magnetic field); systems of 1.5T are common in equine referral practices and 3.0T systems have recently been introduced into human practices. They carry a price tag from $495,000 to millions of dollars and usually have expensive annual service contracts.

Low-field systems have field strengths of up to 0.3T, and are substantially less expensive to purchase. Low-field magnets currently in use for horses have 0.20 and 0.29T magnets

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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