Diagnostic Imaging

The most common diagnostic imaging modalities used to identify soft tissue or bony lesions within the equine axial skeleton are radiographs and ultrasonography.

The biggest challenges with diagnostic imaging in horses is their large body size and the inability to readily acquire three-dimensional images.  In humans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is considered the gold standard for identifying neck, back, or pelvic problems.  Unfortunately, we are limited to only being able to use MRI to visualize changes within the horse’s head and not the entire axial skeleton.

diagnostic imaging example 2
diagnostic imaging example 1

The other important consideration is that diagnostic imaging has ability to identify structural defects, but is quite limited in assessing function, such as pain, stiffness, or altered joint motion.  Acquiring flexed and extended radiographic views within the cervical region does provide information on segmental instability, but this is not a routine procedure done within other vertebral regions in horses.