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Could an MRI help your horse?

How do you know if MRI will help diagnose your horse’s injury? Here are the 3 essential questions you need to ask.


1. Is the injury localised?

We hope that one day there will be a way for horses to tell us where it hurts. Until then, vets will have to carry on the careful process of using local anaesthetic and observing the horse’s movement to pin down the region causing the pain. (For more about nerve blocks, see our FAQ)

Standing MRI can comprehensively image a spherical volume 13cm across in 1-2 hours. Screening a large area is impractical so the lameness must be localised to, for example, a fetlock or a foot before the horse goes in to be scanned.

75% of Hallmarq scans are conducted on the foot, as this is where problems occur most frequently. However, it is also common to scan up to the knee or hock, with our more experienced sites now producing excellent images of upper suspensories.

So if your horse’s lameness is localised to one grapefruit-sized region near or below the knee, MRI is a viable option.

2. Has the horse ever had a bad reaction to sedation?

A unique feature of standing MRI is that your horse can have a very high quality diagnostic procedure without undergoing the risks associated with general anaesthetic. In order to reduce movement and get good quality images the horse is sedated, as is common practice for other standing veterinary procedures.

If your horse has had an adverse reaction to sedation in the past or doesn’t like needles then let the clinic know in advance. If your horse is a tricky customer then they will likely have alternative possibilities they can discuss with you.

3. Is MRI a practical option?

With over 60 sites around the world, standing MRI will very soon be available in 20 countries – that includes 5 of the World’s continents. To find your nearest site, visit this page.

When your horse is going to undergo a general anaesthetic there are many extra considerations such as how long he will have to stay in, and whether he can eat beforehand. With standing MRI, the horse can usually be dropped off and picked up the same day, saving you a lot of time and worry.

In many cases scan fees are included in veterinary fee insurance. If you are covered, keep in touch with your insurer and be sure to get their approval before the scan takes place. For details on scan fees, contact the relevant clinic.

What to do next

If you can answer these three questions, you are closer to an early, safe and accurate diagnosis. Talk to your vet about your horse’s options, or contact your closest clinic to get more information about how MRI could help your horse.

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