Diagnostic Overview

Scintigraphy

Scintigraphy is a technique in which an injected form of radioisotope can be imaged by a gamma camera, which takes “pictures” of the radiation given off by the isotope. As the isotope travels and is absorbe

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Scintigraphy


Scintigraphy is a technique in which an injected form of radioisotope can be imaged by a gamma camera, which takes “pictures” of the radiation given off by the isotope. As the isotope travels and is absorbed by various systems of the horse’s body, it can be observed and correlated to offer diagnostic information. Essentially, this diagnostic test detects increased blood flow to an area. The radioactive isotope is used as a marker, and a picture of where the isotopes concentrate (due to increased blood flow to an injured area) is made available to the veterinarian via computer. Scintigraphy is a non-invasive technique whereby the short-lived gamma-emitting radioisotopes are used to image body tissue, including bones and soft tissue.


Scintigraphy has become common in screening for microfractures that can develop into more severe injuries. This technique is used most extensively in racehorses. Even though many trainers have embraced the use of scintigraphy, the diagnostic tool is not available everywhere. Since scintigraphy requires the use of radioactive material and trained personnel, there has to be a special facility available within a short distance from the track, which isn’t always the case. Scintigraphy isn’t a lameness meter; someone has to interpret the information. Roughly a third of the time scintigraphy doesn’t show the answer to a horse’s lameness problem because the problem is in soft tissue, which is not visualized as well. For best results, scintigraphy should be used in combination with a lameness exam and other diagnostic tools.


Scintigraphy requires specialized handling and facilities because of the danger of radioactive isotopes used in the procedure

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Written by:

Tim Brockhoff was Staff Writer of The Horse:Your Guide to Equine Health Care from 1995 to 1999. His degree is in Agricultural Communications from the University of Kentucky, and his equine experience is with American Saddlebreds.

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