Conventional radiography (X-ray) is invaluable when it comes to diagnosing disease in the bone structure of the horse. However, there are many instances where X-rays along cannot diagnose a problem, or fully reveal the issues with a single lameness/disease. Soft tissue injury is very common in horses and requires a more specialized diagnostic tool to understand. Ultrasound has come a long way in the past 20 years and has become a mainstay of equine medicine. We use a high quality portable digital ultrasound machine from GE. This machine gives us the capability of looking at soft tissues structures such as tendons, stifle structures, joint spaces, and the uses range up to abdominal and thoracic ultrasound. Below are several instances of its use in lameness, however this machine can help us diagnose causes of colic, pneumonia, abscesses, and the list goes on. Having this technology brings another level of diagnostics on par with what clients receive at referral practices.
This is an image of a normal medial meniscus in the stifle of a normal horse. The meniscus has normal consistency throughout the tissue with no tears and disruption.
This is the meniscus of a horse with acute hind limb lameness. Radiographs were taken and showed no abnormalities in the bones of the joint. Using the ultrasound machine we were able to diagnose multiple meniscal tears, which cause significant instability and pain in that joint. Prognosis for this type of injury is typically poor, however we were able to get a diagnosis and prognosis.
stifle_newpic_1 stifle_newpic_2
These two images show the cartilage along the trochlear ridges of the femur in the stifle of a 6 month old foal with acute lameness and effusion in the joint. X-rays of this joint could not demonstrate any changes in the cartilage of the joint. The ultrasound machine was used to visualize the cartilage which is represented by the thick dark line along the bone which is the bright white line. The arrows show areas where there are cartilage defects. These are OCD lesions and the horse was sent to surgery. In surgery, multiple cartilage flaps and erosions were visualized and cleaned up.