CT Scans Allows Quantitative Wobbler Syndrome Evaluation

Quantitative information provides better data for determining treatment and prognosis, researchers said.
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CT Scans Allows Quantitative Wobbler Syndrome Evaluation
The scientists were able to scan all seven cervical vertebrae in the two youngest cases, but only the first five vertebrae in the other three, Yamada said. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Kazutaka Yamada
Wobbler syndrome—ataxia caused by spinal, or cervical, cord compression—is a diagnosis veterinarians usually reach by looking at somewhat subjective readings of X rays and myelograms. X rays can reveal sites where the cervical canal (which holds the spinal cord) becomes narrower than usual—but that doesn’t necessarily mean the cord is compressed. Meanwhile, myelographies can reveal compression in two dimensions, but doesn’t give veterinarians a look at the sites in more informational 3-D.

What veterinarians really need is an objective diagnostic tool that combines these analyses, showing both the locations of compression and confirmation that the cord is compressed, say Japanese researchers. The computer tomography (CT) myelograph offers just that—but with one significant problem: its size.

“Currently existing CT myelography machines have a small gantry (opening), designed for humans and small animals, and that’s not good enough for horses because we can’t get a picture of the entire cervical vertebral column,” said Kazutaka Yamada, PhD, DVM, of Azabu University’s Veterinary Radiology Department, in Kanagawa.

In their study, Yamada and his fellow researchers examined five ataxic (incoordinated) Thoroughbred foals (aged 5 to 33 weeks) using small-gantry CT myelography under general anesthesia. Afterward, they euthanized the horses and performed postmortem examinations to compare their CT myelography findings to the foals’ actual pathologies

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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