PET Scan: A New Diagnostic Imaging Option for Horses

PET scans revealed lesions in bony and soft tissue, some of which weren’t visible on other imaging modalities.

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PET Scan: A New Diagnostic Imaging Option for Horses
Photo: Mathieu Spriet

Last year, researchers from the University of California (UC), Davis, performed the first-ever positron emission tomography (PET) scan on a horse. In human medicine, physicians use this technology to diagnose conditions ranging from cancer to brain damage to heart and bone problems. It had never been applied to horses for logistical reasons, but a recently developed portable scanner is changing that.

Mathieu Spriet, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVR, ECVDI, associate professor of surgical and radiological sciences at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, led a study to determine whether PET scans could be useful for diagnosing lower limb injuries in horses. He presented his team’s results at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida.

How does this imaging modality work? Like with a scintigraphic scan, the veterinarian injects a small amount of radioactive tracer into the patient to obtain an image

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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