Using MRI to Evaluate Fetlock Pain

Vets use MRI to identify issues and prescribe targeted treatment to give the horse the best chance at returning to work.
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The horse’s fetlock is a relatively small joint with a very big job. This complex joint is one of the body’s main shock absorbers, it stabilizes the lower limb, and it enables the horse to move at high speeds over varied terrain, said Rich Redding, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR. That’s why, when this important joint is injured, an accurate diagnosis is key to guiding treatment to maintain the horse’s soundness.

One of the most useful tools veterinarians have for evaluating the fetlock is MRI, which provides cross-sectional imaging in any number of slice planes and allows the practitioner to more carefully evaluate diseases of both bone and soft-tissue structures of the distal (lower) limb.

“MRI is now considered the gold standard for imaging orthopedic problems of the distal limb of the horse,” Redding said.

At the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida, Redding, a clinical professor equine orthopedics and lameness at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Raleigh, shared how veterinarians can use MRI to identify the problem and prescribe treatment to give the horse the best chance at returning to work

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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