Medical Imaging

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's medical imaging department is equipped with the latest medical imaging technologies including: 

  • digital radiography
  • ultrasonography
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • computed tomography (CT)
  • nuclear scintigraphy

Click on the green bars (below) for more information about MRI, CT and nuclear scintigraphy.

WCVM's team of medical imaging specialists and support staff have extensive experience with a variety of specialized equipment and expertise that enhances the management of cases at the VMC.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sensitive and the most specific imaging tool available in veterinary medicine.

This non-invasive imaging technology differentiates between various types of soft tissues — not just soft tissue and bone. It also allows medical imaging specialists to determine whether soft tissue is normal or if it's something that has abnormal characteristics such as inflammatory tissue or cancer.

Western Canadian horse owners and referring veterinarians have access to a powerful diagnostic tool: a standing MRI unit in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's Ryan/Dubé Equine Performance Centre. The new system allows medical imaging teams to:

  • quickly produce high-quality clinical images of the equine foot, pastern, fetlock and carpus
  • definitively diagnose conditions in both fore and hind suspensory ligaments
  • detect soft tissue lesions in the equine foot or conditions such as navicular syndrome that involve tendons and ligaments
  • diagnose certain forms of lameness up to and including the knee (carpus) and hock (tarsus)

Unlike other MRI systems, the WCVM's new standing MRI unit doesn't require patients to undergo general anesthesia: a horse is only sedated to ensure minimal movement and good image quality.

Besides being more cost effective, the sedation option allows clinicians to avoid the small but significant risk of anesthetizing an equine patient.

Computed tomography (CT)

Computed tomography (CT) is a non-invasive imaging method that uses a rotating X-ray beam and computer analysis to produce detailed, cross-sectional images.

One of the technology's main advantages is its rapidity: medical imaging specialists can conduct a CT scan on a patient in a matter of minutes.

Medical imaging specialists often use CT technology to:

  • assess a fracture in a horse's spine or cranium
  • identify nasal, ear, sinus or dental diseases in horses
  • assess proximal tibia and radius
  • assess equine hock and carpus
  • detect potential stress fractures in equine limbs
  • detect injuries of the deep digital flexor tendon or suspensory ligament
Nuclear scintigraphy

Nuclear scintigraphy (bone scanning) is medical imaging technology that helps clinicians diagnose orthopedic disease or trauma in horses and other animals.

Medical specialists inject ptechnetium-99 — a radioactive isotope that's attached or tagged to drugs (or markers). The radioisotopes are absorbed in increased amounts in areas of the horse's body where there's elevated metabolic activity in soft tissue or bone. The specialists then use a gamma camera to measure the level of radioactivity and to produce a two-dimensional image.

Medical imaging specialists use nuclear scintigraphy to: 

  • visualize a horse's proximal limbs, back and pelvis
  • detect lameness in multiple limbs
  • detect subtle or severe lamenesses
  • detect suspensory ligament-related injuries
  • monitor healing of fractures
  • detect and diagnose abnormal growths (benign or malignant)