Canadian researchers are re-purposing imaging technology to learn more about what goes on in the horse’s gut.
“Whenever I talk to students about the horse abdomen, I put up a picture of a horse and put a big question mark in the middle,” said veterinary researcher Dr. Julia Montgomery in the University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Montgomery worked with equine surgeon Dr. Joe Bracamonte and Khan Wahid, a specialist in health imaging in the College of Engineering. The team used an endoscopy capsule about the size and shape of a vitamin pill.
They explain the only other way to look at a horse’s small intestine was through exploratory surgery or laparoscropy – neither of which allows an inside view. Veterinarians also can use an endoscope – or a camera on the end of a thin cable – to look as far as the horse’s stomach, and a rectal exam to have a look from the other end.
Dr. Montgomery says capsule endoscopy offers a powerful new tool to diagnose diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, or to check surgical sites. Researchers could use it to see how well drugs to stimulate bowel action are working, or to answer basic questions such as determining what “normal” small intestine function looks like.
The “camera pills” have been in use for human medicine for some time, but have yet to be applied in equine health.
This month, the researchers administered the capsule through a stomach tube directly to the horse’s stomach. For the next eight-hours, the capsule with camera made its way through the horse’s small intestine. It offered a continuous picture of what was going on inside.
“…We can now look at good data,” engineer Wahid explained. “Once we know more about the requirements, we can make it really customizable, a pill specific to the horse.”