Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kylie goes for a nuclear scan

Today my horse Kylie's is going over to Santa Anita's Nuclear Imaging Facility for a nuclear scan. She has had a sore back for a couple of weeks now, and the vet couldn't pin point where the problem was (back, neck, stifles, hocks...). Luckily she is sound for flexions, so I'm glad it's not a leg injury this time. I'm not about to try the process of elimination - injecting different parts until the soreness went away. Sounds ridiculous, but that is not an uncommon practice there. A friend of mine spent $10,000 until they finally got to the neck which solved the problem. Nope, I'm not doing that!

When you hurt yourself, you can describe your symptoms to your doctor. A horse, however, must depend on its handlers to find the problem. If the animal is visibly lame in one leg and shows heat and swelling somewhere in the lower leg, a trainer or vet can usually find and take care of it easily. But when an injury occurs higher up a horse's skeleton, especially in the shoulder or the pelvis, it may be impossible to detect with anything but a nuclear scan. Nuclear scanning-also called nuclear scintigraphy-can catch problems earlier than X-rays. It can also find them in parts of the body that are difficult to X-ray.

A nuclear scan works by using a gamma camera to take a photograph of a horse's bone. It will show a "hot spot," or an increased area of activity, where there is a problem. It does this because a horse's body responds to bone damage by sending calcium and phosphorous to the site in order to repair it. With a nuclear scan, a radioactive technetium is bound to phosphorous and injected into the horse's bloodstream. The phosphorous goes to the injured site, taking the technetium with it. Then the gamma camera picks up the technetium, and the veterinarian can see the precise location of the problem. Technology sometimes amazes me!


Ferox said...

It might sound wonderful, but scintigraphy has it's problems. Often you will see many hot spots in many bones, but you dont' know which of those is actually causing the pain. Also, the kidneys and bladder will show up as hot spots as well, since they filter the technitium.

Because scintigraphy only shows ares of activity and not areas of pain, by itself it is not adequate to diagnose a problem, which is why most vets prefer to use diagnostic analgesia (injecting local anaesthetic into nerves of the leg) to localise the area which is causing pain.

Jewelry Rockstar said...

Interesting information. I never pain for a horse was such a concern. Duh...I should know, but I'm not a owner or rider.

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