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Equine Digital Ultrasound

Diagnostic Ultrasound & Musculoskeletal Injuries in Horses

Tendon and ligament injuries are relatively common among equine athletes. Horses engaged in strenuous work such as racing, jumping, endurance or barrel racing are more likely to sustain a tendon or ligament injury. However, injuries can and do occur in horses of all breeds and uses, including the backyard or light use horse.
Diagnostic ultrasound is considered the gold standard in the evaluation of tendons and ligaments in horses. This brochure is designed to help you understand more about tendon and ligament injuries, their diagnosis, management and rehabilitation.

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 alone 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 practice.  Our 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. 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.

Anatomy of the Forelimb

The majority of equine tendon and ligament injuries occur in the metacarpal (foreleg), metatarsal (hind leg) and pastern regions. The superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) and suspensory ligament (SL) are the most commonly affected structures. The SDFT is located just under the skin surface, followed by the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) , inferior check ligament and suspensory ligament. In the pastern region, the SDF and DDF tendons are also evaluated as well as the distal sesamoidean ligaments (straight and oblique) While this brochure focuses on these regions, the principles are similar for any musculoskeletal injury. Ultrasound can also be utilized to diagnose injuries in other areas such as the shoulder, stifle, fetlock, sacroiliac and pelvic region.