Tufts University First in New England to Examine Horse with High-Strength MRI

Large Animal Hospital at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine excels in equine imaging
August 28, 2007

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Tara Pettinato

NORTH GRAFTON, Mass. — Veterinarians at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University now have the ability to look for lameness, brain damage, and other conditions within horses by using the first equine-capable high-strength magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology in New England.

The equipment will be instrumental in diagnosing a variety of equine musculoskeletal conditions—many of which can not be delineated as well using other testing methods. The high strength of the magnet provides far higher quality images than low-field-strength, or portable, MRI technology, which is currently in use in practices throughout New England. Staff at the Cummings School have made positive diagnoses in all four cases so far—including joint inflammation in a nationally competing equine athlete that is now expected to regain performance in time for this season’s competitions.

“Better diagnostics mean better treatment for horses—especially equine athletes—and we are so proud to be able to offer this capability to horse owners in New England and beyond,” said Dr. Steve Rowell, DVM, director of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Foster Hospital for Small Animals and its Hospital for Large Animals. “Pioneering this procedure was no easy task on an animal this size, and I applaud the hard work of the individuals who made this happen while ensuring the safety and health of our patient animals and staff.”

The Cummings School completed construction in December of a 2,100-square-foot hospital addition that houses the 1.5 Tesla Siemens magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. Valued at over $1 million, this state-of-the-art equipment is the most technologically advanced MRI unit in use in Central Massachusetts, and enables Cummings School’s Diagnostic Imaging Section to provide enhanced imaging capabilities for patients receiving treatment at both the small and large animal hospitals at the school. The equipment is the capstone of the newly named Leveen Family Fund MRI Wing.

A leader in veterinary imaging, the Cummings School has been performing MRI diagnostics on animals since 1992. Starting in March 2000, the school began performing on-site MRI with a mobile 1-Tesla unit, and the hospitals have performed MRIs on between 9 and 12 animals—mostly dogs and cats—per week ever since. Since the upgrade to the 1.5-Tesla, permanent unit, hospital staff can now use MRI to diagnose pigs, foals, alpacas and llamas—and full-grown horses.

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University utilizes board-certified radiologists and clinical specialists to conduct the MRI scans, assisted by specially-trained MRI and anesthesia technicians. Because of the cost of the equipment, specialized training of the radiologists and technicians, and time required to conduct the test, most veterinarians refer patients needing MRI scans and related specialty services to large veterinary hospitals like those at Tufts’ Grafton, Mass., campus.

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Founded in 1978 in North Grafton, Mass., Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University is internationally esteemed for academic programs that impact society and the practice of veterinary medicine; three hospitals that treat more than 28,000 animals each year; and groundbreaking research that benefits animal, public, and environmental health.

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