MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Powerful, Diagnostic Technology

Open, Standing MRI for HorsesMagnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is a diagnostic technique using a magnetic field to produce pictures of structures inside the body.  It relies on the water content of the soft tissue structures to create a clear and precise three-dimensional anatomic image of the area of concern.   From these images individual slices can be evaluated that have far more detail than can be attained with radiographs or ultrasound.  Since MRI relies on the water content of tissues the injury can be graded on both severity of damage and duration of injury.  Depending on the injury identified a repeat MRI may be indicated to more accurately assess healing and time return to training and athletic performance.

Wisconsin Equine Clinic & Hospital is one of only 23 equine veterinary clinics in the United States to have this type of equipment.


Standing, Open MRI System for Pinpointing the Source of Pain

Why choose MRI?

MRI is currently considered the gold standard for diagnosing injury in equine sports medicine.  It is simply the most powerful diagnostic imaging modality available today.  It is rapidly gaining popularity by both veterinarians and horse owners alike as they recognize the value in an early and accurate diagnosis of an injury.

An MRI not only gives clear viewing of bone and soft tissue but it also allows 3-dimensional viewing of the area of concern, so severity of the injury can be accurately determined.

The Hallmarq® MRI used at Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital has the unique ability to image horses both standing and under general anesthesia.

In equine sports medicine, an early and accurate diagnosis with an MRI can lead to improving a horse's long-term athletic soundness and reducing their time out of work.

MRI allows our specialists to examine your horse's inner structure in a safe, non-invasive procedure, and because of its unparalleled accuracy, MRI allows us to better diagnose conditions such as lameness or head and neck problems.

MRI can be helpful in these situations:

  •         Lameness localized to the foot or lower limb by nerve blocks

  •         X-rays do not show any injuries/lesions

  •         Area not accessible with ultrasound

  •         Early detection of bone fractures in race horses

  •         Assessing damage after penetrating injuries of the foot

  •         After acute onset of lameness during exercise

  •         To monitor treatment and healing before returning to work


 What areas can be seen with MRI?

Our equipment is a standing, open MRI system, which allows patients to stand under mild sedation, so distal extremities (feet, pasterns, and fetlocks) and other body parts can be scanned in a weight-bearing state.  This enables doctors to more precisely pinpoint your horse's source of pain. 

When your horse cannot be scanned standing the procedure can be performed under general anesthesia in a very safe and controlled manner.  This allows us to obtain images of the proximal limbs, which include hocks, knees, and suspensory ligaments.


Examples of MRI Usage

The structure that is imaged most frequently with the MRI is the hoof.  The equine hoof is comprised of many soft tissue structures that cannot be seen on x-ray, and cannot be penetrated by ultrasound waves.  We are now able to identify damage to these tissues, provide an explanation for many frustrating foot lameness cases, and suggest new treatments and shoeing techniques.  Recent research has shown that with a more accurate and early diagnosis long term athletic soundness can be improved.

MRI also allows evaluation of bone injury that is not visible on x-rays, such as fluid build-up and bruising, and early fractures before they become obvious cracks.  The MRI system is best used when a lameness can be localized to a specific area, such as a particular foot or fetlock, but shows no abnormalities on digital x-ray or ultrasound.


The Benefits of MRI

  •        High quality diagnostic images of bone and soft tissue

  •        Detection of lesions not visible on x-rays and ultrasound

  •        Eliminate the risk of general anesthesia when performed standing

  •        Typically an outpatient procedure, no need for hospitalization

  •        Accurate diagnosis allows earlier, more effective targeted treatment    plans and  prognosis


No radiation, no known biological hazards

If you would like more information about our MRI services, our staff would be happy to arrange a veterinarian consultation about your horse's condition. 

Equine standing MRI

MRI is an importatnt diagnostic tool in equine sports medicine. It is both highly sensitive and specific in terms of identifying the underlying problem.

To learn more about our MRI, watch this video provided by Dr. Langer.


MRI Appointments

Appointment times are typically booked within 1 week.

Major medical insurance often covers a portion of the cost so be sure to communicate with your insurance company.  We are happy to assist with getting forms and paperwork to your insurance.

Please see this form for booking appointments.

The Procedure

The examination takes about 2 hours to complete. The scans are interpreted and a report is completed within 48 hours.

  • Front or hind shoes are removed to prevent metal interference

  • Horse is sedated, walks into the room, and a leg is placed in the scanner

  • The operator aligns the scanner with the injury site

  • Many images are collected of the injured area, and of the opposite leg for comparative purposes

  • After 1-2 hours the scans are completed, the horse can load up and go home

  • Scans are interpreted and reported within 48 hours