What is an MRI?
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a technique where the horse is placed into a very strong magnetic field. Radio waves are then generated, and the signal which they produce can be interpreted as an image on a computer. The high contrast between different tissues allows a close examination of cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules and bone. MRI looks at both bone and soft tissue in the same image in multiple slices, so problems can be detected that may not otherwise be seen using another method e.g ultrasound or x-ray. MRI is non-invasive and has no known side effects.
When is an MRI needed?
Our standing MRI unit can examine a horse’s lower limb in high detail.
More often than not, the outcome of a conventional lameness work-up is that a problem is localized to a specific region, for example the foot, but has no visible changes on x-ray or ultrasound. Response to treatment may be the only way to confirm or refute a potential diagnosis, and the horse may have to repeatedly return to the clinic for further examination. This pathway takes time and costs money, while the patient may lose condition and the injury get worse. By visualising slices through tissue, MRI can quickly and precisely localise damage to both bone and soft tissues.
Preparation for an MRI Scan
Our MRI procedures include 1 night of livery free of charge and this can either be pre, or post MRI as they can be time consuming.
Firstly, one of our veterinary surgeons will check your horses’ heart, lungs and weight. This helps them safely and accurately administer the drugs needed for sedation. To facilitate repeat sedation doses, a short-stay intravenous catheter will be inserted into the neck vein. To enable a scan, both front (or hind) shoes will be removed (and returned to you), as steel is highly magnetic.
The clinicians will then sedate, position and scan your horse.
Performing the MRI & What to Expect?
The MRI suite is a secure unit, to which the horse is taken and then sedated, to reduce stress and movement.
During the scan, multiple images are obtained in different orientations to enable detailed visualisation of the soft tissue and bone. This may be a lengthy procedure that can take all day – occasionally, our team will resume the scan the following day if the images required were not obtained.
You will be kept informed throughout the procedure; however, you are also welcome to call our reception team for an update. During the procedure, you can wait in our reception where we have comfortable seating, free hot drinks and light reading. Alternatively, we will let you know when your horse is ready to come home