Trailblazing imaging suite available for horses in Western Australia

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The first standing MRI machine installed in Western Australia has scanned twice the expected number of horses in its initial month of operation.

The MRI technology can diagnose a wide variety of lameness conditions caused by musculoskeletal injuries, which cannot be accurately assessed with radiographs or ultrasound. MRI is particularly useful for diagnosing soft tissue injuries involving ligaments and tendons.

An advanced state-of-the-art CT scanner will soon accompany the MRI at the advanced imaging centre at The Animal Hospital at Murdoch University and together the two machines promise the highest of quality images to enable better diagnosis and treatment for horses.

Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) has partnered with The Animal Hospital to build the imaging centre, with subsidised scans available for racehorses.

Dr David Byrne shows the RWWA team how the CT space is shaping up

A major advantage of the new MRI and CT is that they are performed standing, eliminating the need for a general anaesthetic, reducing the cost and risk to the horse.

Senior Lecturer and Registered Specialist in Equine Medicine Dr David Byrne said the CT scanner would be operational this winter and a great addition to the imaging suite.

“The CT machine that we have selected is the most advanced available, and one of only three machines of this calibre in the Southern Hemisphere. Choosing to use this 160-slice scanner means faster high-quality images, with a lower limb being scanned in about six seconds,” Dr Byrne said.

“The CT has capabilities to image regions that have previously been inaccessible. As well as being able to scan the lower limbs, head and much of the neck in standing horses, we will be able to scan the upper limbs, all of the neck and in some cases the pelvis or spine in anaesthetised horses.”

Inside the new MRI unit, which allows horses to be scanned while standing under light sedation

Dr Byrne and his team recently gave RWWA vets and staff a tour of the facility and the chance to see the MRI in operation, performing scans of the feet and fetlocks of a horse.

Horses requiring an MRI or CT will need a referral from their vet. Once created, the images are sent to expert veterinary radiologists all over the world for interpretation. The radiological report and diagnosis are then sent directly to the referring veterinarian.

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RWWA is supporting the WA racing sector by offering a rebate for advanced imaging for racehorses. Additionally, The Animal Hospital is offering 10 percent discounts to active racehorses on MRI and CT scans.

Dr Byrne said if further investigation is required after the initial CT scan, a half price MRI scan would also be offered.

“The relationship between The Animal Hospital and RWWA brings the costs down and makes it affordable to choose the best quality images to understand, treat and even prevent injuries,” he said.