Bone Scans in Horses Not Always Accurate in Poor Performance Exams

Recent research suggests that bone scans in horses aren’t always accurate in diagnosing causes of lameness and poor performance in sport horses when used alone.
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Bone scans in horses
Bone scanning's value in diagnosing specific lesions or injuries in combination with other imaging modalities, clinical examination, and the results of diagnostic analgesia has been documented for several anatomic sites, Dyson said. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Anthony Pease

In theory, nuclear scintigraphy (bone scanning) sounds like the ideal imaging modality to localize problem areas in horses’ bodies. Veterinarians inject a radioisotope into the horse, which gets deposited in areas where bone is changing rapidly, as often occurs at healing injury sites. Then, they use special gamma cameras to acquire images that show these rapidly changing areas. Easy, right?

Not so fast. Recent research suggests that bone scans in horses aren’t always accurate in diagnosing causes of lameness and poor performance in sport horses when used alone.

However, said Sue Dyson, MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, head of Clinical Orthopaedics Animal Health Trust Centre for Equine Studies, in Newmarket, U.K., bone scans in horses used alongside other imaging modalities and diagnostic procedures can provide clinically useful information

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Jill Griffiths is a freelance writer specializing in agriculture and environment and resides in Western Australia. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Through her work, she interacts with leading researchers across Australia, providing her with access to current research in many fields. A life-long horse lover, Griffiths came to horse ownership in mid-life and currently shares three horses with her young daughter. She enjoys groundwork, trail riding, flatwork, and just hanging out with the horses in the paddock.

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