Magnet Resonance Imaging - MRI

Since 2004, we are doing MRI examination on the horse. The diagnostic method, also designated as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) tomography or magnetic resonance tomography (MRT), is an imaging technique for presentiation of various tissues with the help of magnetic fields and radio waves. Without the use of X-rays images of the affected area are made, and not restricted to bone, as in x-rays, but including soft tissues. The technique, which has been applied for about 8years in equine medicine, offers decivise advantages vis-á-vis “classic” radiography and we get much more information. By the MRI technique, we make possible statements about the condition of soft tissue such as ligaments, tendons, joint capsule,  cartilage, or bursae. This is particularly important in the region of the foot, where ultrasound is very limited. In our clinic we utilize a device that enables the examination on a standing, merely sedated horse. As a result, a high risk narcosis is no longer necessary. The U-shaped magnet is height-adjustable so that regions from the hoof area to the carpus or tarsus can be axaminated. Up to now, this modern technique is only offered by three other clinics in Germany.

What is the procedure?

The shoes can be removed from both hooves. The horse is sedated, lead into the room and placed on the scanner with one leg. The veterinarian directs the magnet to the unhealthy leg. Many images are taken and sometimes recordings from the other leg are included in order to compare. After 1-2 hours, the horse is out of the room and, if necessary, is kept shortly in a box until it’s awake. Afterwards, the meeting between the veterinarian, owner and / or rider takes place so the therapy is determined in collective cooperation.


What are the benefits of MRI?

It saves you time and money. In human orthopedics, MRI is usually the diagnostic method of "first choice". It is the only method in which all structures (even beneath the hoof wall) can be seen. General anesthesia is not necessary in most cases.

  • Hence reducing its risks
  • Also available as an ambulatory practice
  • Approved by owners and trainers for effective health management of sport - and leisure horses
  • Immediate diagnosis in about 90% of the cases


Clear and fast diagnosis:

  • Saving unnecessary and expensive repeated testing, unsuccessful therapies and rest phases
  • Allows selective treatments including special shoeing
  • Eliminates the risk of progressive damaging during the investigation – treatment - rest phase and follow-up
  • Enables prompt decisions about horse´s future


Consider MRI in the following cases:

  • Lameness, to determine  the cause specially when it is situated in the hoof or lower leg area (including carpal or tarsal joint)
  • Radiographs are normal or questionable
  • Scintigraphy is still to be considered or was negative
  • Ultrasound is not possible or gives no response
  • In an acute penetration wound (for example, nail stab)
  • Acute and chronic lameness without a successful treatment-outcome/result
  • As a treatment and healing success control,  before returning to training

How does the MRI works?

The scans are made in a special shielded room. The leg is exposed to a strong magnetic field and to short radio-wave impulses. The resulting signal can then be converted into images. Different sequences provide different signals. Therefore all tissues can be distinguished from each other without contrast agents. It doesn´t create harmful radiation like X-rays and CT. Side effects are not known.

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