There have been whispers of new exciting diagnostic equipment at Fourways Equine Clinic, and to this end, we are proud to announce that Fourways Equine Clinic, in conjunction with Equicare, has installed the first standing CT scanner in South Africa.
Why is this such ground breaking news?
Well, to fully grasp the scope of this project, one needs to understand the mechanics of how a CT scanner works, and why it is superior to conventional diagnostic methods.
Let’s take a look at the technical advantages first:
CT stands for “Computed Tomography”. CT scanners are also known as CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scanners. Tomography broken down into its Latin roots are tomo: slice and graphein: to write. A CT scanner, therefore, makes use of computer-processed combinations of many x-ray images taken from a multitude of angles to produce cross-sectional (tomographic) images (virtual slices) of specific areas of the body. Broken down simply, a CT scanner creates a complex 3D image of the affected area by gluing together the many x-ray slices taken by the machine.
There are several reasons why CT scanning is superior when compared to traditional 2D radiography:
- CT completely eliminates the superimposition of images of structures outside the area of interest.
- Because of the inherent high-contrast resolution that CT provides, one can easily see the differences between tissues that differ in physical density by less than 1%.
- Data from a single CT imaging procedure (scan) can be viewed in many different planes (sides) i.e. axial or sagittal planes and allows for reconstruction of the images or “slices” into a comprehensive 3D image.
The above characteristics provide veterinarians with more accurate images allowing the doctor to make a better diagnosis and as a result, they are able to create better treatment choices.
Figure 1: This figure shows the CT scanning process on the computer screen.
Figure 2: This figure is a 3D reconstruction CT scan and highlights the sagittal fracture of P1.
Figure 3: This figure shows a 3D reconstruction of the head of a horse with the help of the CT scanner.
Another milestone is that Equicare’s CT machine allows for us to take images of the affected areas whilst the horse is standing. This means that the horse is heavily sedated instead of being put under general anaesthetic, thus reducing the anaesthetic risk for the horse. As seen in the below figures.
Figure 4: In this figure, we can see the horse El Gheet in position and being scanned by the CT scanner. (Many thanks to Mrs. Aukamp for letting us use this image of Al Gheet).
The anatomical areas that can be evaluated by our CT scanner is as follows:
- Head: The entire head may be scanned. This includes teeth, sinuses, brain, jaw bones as well as the first cervical (neck) vertebrae.
Figure 6: This figure is a CT scan showing a brain tumour (the brain tumour is indicated by the arrow)
Figure 7: This figure is a CT scan showing a nasal mass (the nasal mass is indicated by the arrow)
Figure 8: This figure shows a CT scan of a horse’s head, showing the orbits and turbinates. (The orange arrows point out the orbits and the yellow arrows point out the turbinates)
- Legs: The hoof up to the and including the fetlock.
Figure 9: In this figure, you can see the condylar – bone cracks.
Figure 10: Shows a CT scan of a Hoof
Evaluation of the equine head can be a difficult task using conventional radiography. The complex anatomic structures of the sinuses, teeth, and soft tissue, as well as the superimposition or “shadows” they cast, can complicate radiographic interpretation and diagnosis.
This now allows us to be at the forefront in equine lower limb and head disorder diagnostics.
It must be mentioned that although a CT is the most comprehensive form of diagnostics, this does not replace or undermine the importance of initial diagnostic equipment. It is easy to get swept up in the hype of a new “toy” but the first port of diagnostic call should remain with the use of radiography and ultrasonography. These are accurate, portable and provide the vet with a great initial picture allowing for quick diagnosis and a swift treatment action. If in the event that both radiology and ultrasonography cannot provide a “complete” picture, then it is recommended to proceed with the use of CT imaging.
Fourways Equine Clinic have mobile and ultrasound equipment, making it easy for clients to have their horses seen to at their own yards. Should CT scan be required, the horse will be booked into the Equicare Clinic accordingly where our vets will perform the CT scan.