MRI is the gold standard imaging modality for orthopedic conditions in horses. Injuries involving soft tissue, bone and cartilage can be detected with MRI when inconclusive information is gathered with traditional imaging methods, such as radiography and ultrasonography.
MRI evaluations are typically performed after the lameness has been localized to a specific area but nuclear scintigraphy, radiographs, and ultrasonography do not adequately depict the cause of lameness.
The Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center uses the Ellegro magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit to determine the cause of lameness in areas ranging from the foot through the carpus and the hock. MRI has greatly improved the diagnosis and treatment of equine foot pain in the last decade. The use of general anesthesia to acquire these images allows for superior image quality versus the low field standing units and hence a more accurate diagnosis of conditions being evaluated. It also allows for imaging of regions such as the hock that cannot be performed with a standing MRI. Due to the magnetic field, shoes must be pulled and feet radiographed to ensure no small pieces of nail are left that can distort the image quality. A physical examination and blood work will be performed prior to the anesthesia.
During your horse's MRI, the area of interest is evaluated in three different planes from front to back, top to bottom, and side to side to obtain a thorough evaluation. Using the tissue's response to radiofrequency pulses in the magnetic field, this technique can detect bony and soft tissue lesions such as fractures, bone cysts, erosions, edema, hemorrhage, bony avulsions, ligament and tendon inflammation or core lesions and adhesions.
Your horse’s veterinarian is the best person to coordinate the referral of your horse for an MRI, as a thorough history will be needed prior to admission. It is important to make sure that the surgeon in charge has complete details of the history of your horse’s condition (degree/duration of lameness, response to nerve/joint blocks, previous radiographic/ultrasonographic exam findings, and previous treatment/response) prior to the MRI. Horses may be dropped off the night before or early the day of the MRI, and must be held off feed for 8 hours prior to the procedure. After the MRI, they are monitored overnight and allowed to go home the next day. The exam typically requires 90 minutes to complete. Once completed, preliminary results from a boarded radiologist are typically available that afternoon with a final report within 24-48 hours. We work closely with your veterinarian to provide optimal care and communication throughout the process.