Ultrasound is a technique we often use to diagnose soft tissue injuries and abnormalities. An ultrasound machine is composed of a probe and a processor. The probe emits ultrasound waves which bounce back off the tissue and are then processed by the processor to create an image on the screen.
The most common situation we would use it is in the examination of suspected tendon and ligament injuries. Many athletic horses will injure their superficial digital flexor tendon at the back of the cannon region. Often a swelling will be evident at the back of the leg, however ultrasound is used to image the area and show any damage present and the extent of it. We often use ultrasound to monitor the healing and repair phases in order to plan a staged recovery and exercise programme.
Older horses often injure the check ligament, which is a ligament that originates at the back of the knee and attaches to the deep digital flexor tendon. These horses often present with a swelling on the outside of the leg below the knee. Ultrasound is used to identify this and monitor the healing of these injuries.
Another use of ultrasound is in the investigation of abdominal disease. The liver is an organ commonly examined with ultrasound, and is situated primarily on the right side of the horse. We use ultrasound to identify the most suitable place to take a biopsy from in horses with liver disease.
The intestine is also imaged using ultrasound. Using ultrasound we are able to measure gut wall thickness and assess for any changes in its structure- often seen in horses with inflammatory bowel disease and lymphoma.
Ultrasound examination is a completely pain free procedure and in the majority of cases is performed on the yard, provided there is a mains electricity supply. Very occasionally we will administer sedation in order to ensure a cooperative patient to get the best images possible! Sometimes we will have to clip the hair off from the area we are scanning in order to get adequate skin contact for high quality images.
We are able to save the digital images acquired and these are then attached to your horse’s record for us to view whenever required. If requested we can often print a copy for you if you wish to keep them for your records.