Lameness Exams

A thorough exam is essential for an accurate diagnosis. Lameness exams at the Equine All-Sports Medicine Center are scheduled so that the clinican can spend at least 2 hours with each client. The whole horse is considered during the in-depth analysis of the problem. The horse can be observed on hard and soft surfaces, on circles and straight lines, in hand and under saddle. State-of-the-art diagnostic equipment gives the EASMC a leading edge in diagnosing lameness problems. Digital radiographs and digital ultrasounds can be made right in the center, which decreases the length of time clients spend waiting for results. Images acquired with these techniques will be digitally stored in an electronic database for future reference. The information  also is  transfered on a CD for the client to take home along with information about the causes and prevention of lameness and prescribed treatment for your horse. In most cases, appointments and consultation will be completed within 2-3 hours and the client will have all the results of any procedures performed on the horse the same day.

Digital radiology is used after a clinical examination in cases that involve injured bony structures. This technique produces a more advanced image than a typical x-ray. A computer can be used to enhance the x-ray and enlarge it, make it darker or lighter or change its contrast, which is very helpful in making a diagnosis. Storage and filing of all x-rays in a digital database is another major improvement with digital radiology.

Using ultrasound to get a better image for tendon evaluation is a common technique in veterinary medicine. Using the same ultrasound techniques for evaluation of a joint to acquire more information about the soft tissues in a joint (capsule, synovial membrane, quality of the synovial fluid, quality of the cartilage) is a relatively new procedure. Ultrasound can produce an image of muscle properties and tendons and ligaments involved in back and spinal injuries. The EASMC’s ultrasound machine has special probes and frequencies that can produce a better resolution than the typical machine and allows us to analyze tissues such as joint capsules, tendons, ligaments, cartilage in joints, the menisci in the stifle, and attachments of ligaments and tendons on bone and muscles.

Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s scintigraphy equipment, which is available to EASMC clients, can pinpoint bone activity or high soft tissue turn-over. A bone scan can be very helpful when the source of a lameness problem is not obvious.

Computer Tomography (CT or CAT scan), which produces 3-D images of injuries, can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of lameness.

Neurological problems in the horse can contribute to or appear to be lameness symptoms. The cause of lameness is not always restricted to the locomotion system (bones, tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles). Electromyography can be used to assess the status of the horse’s neural system (nerves, motoric end plates and central nervous system and brain) and help determine if the lameness is associated with or even due to neurological factors.