Equine MRI a valuable assessment tool

The addition of an MRI to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s (WCVM) new equine performance centre will further expand the suite of tools veterinarians can use to assess and treat various lameness issues in horses.

"Lameness and exercise-related issues can be relatively subtle and diagnosis can be very difficult," said WCVM Dean Dr. Douglas Freeman. "You need the right tools" and the $663,000 MRI, to be located adjacent to the lunging ring and the evaluation track in the performance centre, is an important one is determining the cause of lameness.

Freeman explained that the MRI was not included in the original plan for the equine performance centre "but in the design, we kept an area open for future development. What we didn't realize was that the future would arrive so soon." When the MRI is installed and operational, likely early in 2012, the WCVM will be the only veterinary facility between Guelph and Washington State University with a complete suite of medical imaging options.

The WCVM has been expanding its imaging capabilities for some time, Freeman said. It has a new CT scanner for both large and small animals, nuclear scintigraphy that uses radioactive markers to assess soft tissue and bone, and an MRI currently being installed but not in a location accessible by horses. The equine MRI will serve the equine industry well and combined with other imaging options—"all different and complimentary modalities"—will further support teaching, research and service at the WCVM.

"We have a number of very exciting, energetic early-career faculty working in the area of medical imaging," he said. Their work will not only expand understanding of diagnostics but will also create opportunities for clinically applied research. "For students, they really do have the chance to study and learn in an outstanding state-of-the-art veterinary medical centre but they need to graduate prepared to do the common work uncommonly well." With its wide range of diagnostic services for clients, the WCVM is able to ensure students have a strong primary case load as well as exposure to the latest research.

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