Infrared Thermography as an Imaging Diagnostics Tool for Equine Medicine

Abstract: Medical imaging techniques can significantly aid correct diagnosis and have become essential to advanced veterinary care. Infrared thermography (IRT) is a novel and so far scarcely used tool in veterinary medicine in Hungary. IRT records the emitted heat of the body in a thermal map. Abnormalities in the thermal signature can indicate potential anomalies.

Objectives: By highlighting the capabilities of IRT in equine medicine, the authors aim to popularise the method among practitioners. The advantages of IRT and its potentials as a supplementary diagnostic tool are reviewed. Limitations of the technique are also discussed, supplemented by guidance for how to overcome them. Five case studies are presented to illustrate the versatility of IRT and provide examples of body parts that can be efficiently examined.

Materials and Methods: An ICI™ 7640 IR PAD 640P infrared camera was used to record the thermal signature around areas of veterinary interest in five horses. Thermograms were then evaluated to detect and localise potential pathologies.

Results and Discussion: IRT was successfully used to identify (1) an asymmetrical thermal signature on the horse’s back due to an ill-fitted saddle; (2) increased temperature in the area of left splenius cervicis; (3) a fractured molar in the premaxilla-maxilla region; (4) a chip fracture in the proximal sesamoid bone of the right forelimb; and (5) inflammation of the hoof on the right forelimb. IRT can be used efficiently as an inexpensive and rapid pre-diagnostics tool to localise or establish a strong suspicion of certain abnormalities before directing the patient towards further imaging diagnostics (e.g. PET/CT, MRI).

The authors advise to include thermography in veterinary education and advocate the establishment of a standardized framework for veterinary IRT concerning imaging methods, regulations, and environmental conditions.

Access the full study here.

Reference: Tálas, László & Talas, Laszlo. (2017). Infrared thermography as an imaging diagnostics tool for equine medicine. Magyar Allatorvosok Lapja. 139. 259-268.

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