MRI for Equine Foot Lameness: The Sooner the Better

MRI exams are more expensive than most other diagnostics. But with better associated recovery rates, it might be a worthwhile investment, say researchers.

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MRI for Equine Foot Lameness: The Sooner the Better
While MRI is an expensive tool, its benefits might make it a wise choice to prevent prolonged expenses over time due to poor healing, Koch said | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse
When your horse has unexplained lameness in the foot, you might prefer to avoid the cost and inconvenience of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But given the higher recovery rates horses with acute lameness experience following this diagnostic procedure, it might be a worthwhile investment, according to newly published research.

Study horses undergoing MRI due to acute lameness—beginning within the past 12 weeks—healed better than horses whose lameness had become chronic, said Drew W. Koch, DVM, resident in equine surgery in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in Fort Collins.

He attributed this, in part, to improvements in technology and veterinary skills. “As we’ve started to use MRI more regularly in horses, especially in cases of foot-related lameness, we’ve become more able to directly identify issues, and we’ve felt we could more accurately focus treatment,” Koch said.

Eight Years of MRI Cases

Koch and his fellow researchers examined the veterinary records of 95 horses that presented with recent (acute) or long-term (chronic) lameness in the foot and underwent MRI at either Pioneer Equine Hospital in Oakdale, California, or Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital between 2009 and 2016. Veterinarians had already localized the source of lameness to the foot using diagnostic analgesia (nerve blocks)

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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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