PET imaging for equines

Complex Horse Lameness Cases Benefit from PET Scan: Vets

Breakthrough in equine imaging

Horse owners with equines suffering from difficult to diagnosis lameness issues may benefit from positron emission tomography scanning (PET).

The diagnostic imaging tool is now available for horses. UC Davis Veterinary Hospital, in Davis, CA, is the first equine hospital to offer a PET diagnostic program for horses.

Veterinarians inject a small amount of a radioactive substance into the equine patient prior to the PET scan. The scanner’s images detects radioactivity making it skilled at evaluating functional changes such as inflammation and bone remodeling.

From August through September, veterinarians scanned six retired Thoroughbred racehorses to test the PET scanner and validate a clinical protocol. Veterinarians did the PET scans along with a computed tomography (CT) scan under a single anesthetic procedure lasting under three-hours.

Equine PET Imaging / Scanning Veterinarians originally had to initiate two anesthesia procedures when working with a prototype scanner last year.

The PET found stress remodeling lesions in the fetlock and the carpus. Although the horses were imaged with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and scintigraphy, several of the lesions were not found using those diagnostic tools or the CT scan.

Researchers have plans to dedicate more time to the Thoroughbred fetlock. UC Davis Veterinarians say they believe that “PET has the potential to help prevent catastrophic injuries in racehorses”.

Last month, a clinical trial involving client owned horses began. Researchers are studying horses with lameness, already imaged with scintigraphy or MRI, but that need additional diagnosis.

Veterinarians have imaged four Warmbloods in the study. They identified the following lesions in the horses: subchondral bone remodeling in the fetlock and in the tarsus; remodeling of the navicular bone; focal active resorption of the coffin bone; osseous remodeling at the insertion of the suspensory ligament, and remodeling of the canon bone.

For more information regarding the clinical trial, contact UC Davis Equine Services.