Veterinary Diagnostic Service
Thermal Imaging can be a very effective method of highlighting the location of problem areas which then require further exploration. When the owner knows that something is not quite right with their horse or when investigative work has not enabled a satisfactory conclusion, thermal imaging has proved to be an effective tool to inform further investigation.
We provide a Veterinary Diagnostic and Interpretation Service for the benefit of both horse owners and vets.
The images are sent to Vet Donna Harper DVM, in the USA, for interpretation and diagnostic purposes.
Donna Harper DVM has over twenty years experience in Infrared Thermal Technology thus ensuring an astute observation, accuracy of interpretation and a wealth of background knowledge.
The attending technician will help ensure an optimum viewing environment, appropriate equine preparation and take a full set of images by following a specific protocol.
On return, the owner will be provided with a Veterinary Report with specific areas highlighted.
This report can either be kept with the owner and/or forwarded on to the attending vet for further investigation.
For Vets and Veterinary Practices
Not every veterinary practise can extend to having in-house thermal imaging technology. However, in certain instances thermal imaging proves to be a highly valuable diagnostic tool.
We can provide you with a professional service to you and your veterinary practise for those occasions when infrared thermal imaging is required.
Why contract an outside provider?
There are many practical benefits for using an outside provider within your Veterinary Practice:
You will get all the benefits of a helpful, professional service used only when required without the significant financial outlay of expensive technological equipment, lengthy training and its ongoing financial justification for everyday use.
The protocol used for taking diagnostic infrared images is critical. A ready trained technician, experienced in setting up an appropriate environment, patient preparation and positioning, is time released back to the Veterinarian.
Providing clear images and reports without the Veterinarian's loss of time through organising a full thermal imaging session. Providing quality information for the Vet to make medical diagnosis and/or further investigation.
The IR Technician follows a strict protocol to get the diagnostic images required. Images can be viewed directly and in situ by the attending Vet. Images may also be sent to a specialist Veterinarian who has many hours of training and experience of IR image interpretation.
The interpreting Vet reviews the images of the patient and then generates a report for the referring Vet. This is usually accomplished within 72 hours of receiving the images and resembles other diagnostic reports the Vet is accustomed to receiving from outside laboratories etc.
The report will guide the referring Vet in what areas show abnormalities on the IR images. There may be a recommendation for further diagnostics if indicated. This helps the Vet to know exactly where to concentrate his or her further efforts. The referring Vet may consult with the interpreting Vet on the case if desired.
It also provides the referring Vet with a second opinion on the diagnostic part of the case should litigation ever occur related to this patient and /or treatment.experience reviewing thermal images, offering interpretations, experience in assessing redundant thermal anomalies and artifacts, etc.
Infrared (IR) Thermal Imaging is useful for:
- an overview of the horse providing immediate information about apparent areas of interest
- an additional diagnostic tool
- a physiological measurement rather than an anatomical measurement (x-ray, ultrasound, etc)
- a first line diagnostic tool
- reviewing secondary effects to a primary problem
- revealing often over-looked cold spots, cold limbs and nerve damage
- ongoing evaluation of injury progression and/or assessment of treatment
- a method of assessment during 'return to work' post injury
- during or previous to a pre-purchase Veterinary examination
- dismissing or revealing ill fitting saddlery and/or rider balance
- a visual record to enable the horseowner to assess and monitor progress
- a legal record; particularly useful with pre-purchase veterinary examinations
Lessons of Thermography; An excerpt from Donna Harper DVM
“Infrared thermography (IRT) has been used in medicine for a number of years, and during that time, it has suffered from a reputation of questionable accuracy. In the last few years, that reputation has been vindicated by better equipment, better interpretation of images, and the wisdom of time. We can now look back and observe that the infrared cameras of the past may have been more accurate than was properly understood at that point in medical history as it related to IRT."
"Veterinarians have used IRT in veterinary medicine for almost as long as it has been used in medicine, and have slowly developed confidence in its results, as well as an understanding of its value in diagnostics. The newer variety of reasonably lightweight and easily portable cameras have helped tremendously, as have more sensitive detectors and colored video output. In medicine in general, the recognition of distinctive infrared patterns is as important as the actual temperatures that may be associated with those patterns. By recognizing developing patterns, we can accurately diagnose disease processes before they become greatly advanced, and other diagnostic tools can be used in a more effective way to confirm and expand our knowledge of those disease processes".
One of the best reasons to use infrared thermography in veterinary practice, is that it helps to specifically locate injuries, particularly when a variety of symptoms are present and /or unclear and there needs to be a differentiation of primary and secondary symptoms.
One important clinical application is in identifying injuries to upper limb musculature as well as helping to pinpoint problems in the back. Once located, ultrasound can further define the pathology.
Thermography is invaluable in the diagnosis of many neurological problems which would otherwise be incorrectly diagnosed or overlooked. It is the only practical means of differentiating between the common lameness associated with sympathetic neurological response, and the much less common vascular causes of the same clinical symptoms.
Thermography allows the veterinarian to spend his / her effort and the client’s money, in the most efficient way. It also allows the veterinarian to confidently tell the client that treatment is specific to each injured area and to demonstrate this visually to the client.
Treatment is directed to exactly the right locations from initiation. In refractory cases where the original diagnosis may be questioned, Thermography will help to avoid inappropriate treatment changes and even surgery as it eliminates many pathologies based on location and physiological activity; without a Thermographic examination, veterinarians can end up doing questionable procedures as the client demands that something be done because they believe the animal is not improving. Thermography can help determine if the client’s impression is correct, or if they are perhaps impatient, and the correct solution is more time etc.
The result is better patient response to more specific treatment regimens, and ultimately, less dissatisfied clients as long-term treatment cost are often reduced and the desired result is more often achieved.
Pre-purchase exams are desired so that the prospective purchaser can avoid buying a horse that is unsuitable for the purchaser’s intended use. It helps to keep the legal transaction over the animal as honest as possible with the hope that any future disagreement between the two parties with regard to the purchase / sale of the subject horse will be avoided.
It gives the veterinarian something other than a subjective opinion on which to make recommendations for pre-purchase diagnostic testing and /or the ultimate recommendation as to the horse’s potential soundness for the intended use. With Thermal Imaging and any follow-up diagnostics indicated, there is a visual representation of any abnormalities that the veterinarian may find.
In cases where the significance of the pathology found with other diagnostics is questionable, Equine Thermography helps to define whether the pathology is active or inactive which can aid the veterinarian and potential buyer in decision making. It also provides a hard copy record of the horse’s condition on the day the IR examination was done.
This can be invaluable if litigation over the purchase / sale ever occurs. It can also help establish an appropriate price if the sale proceeds.
The Viewing Environment
To achieve premium images for the specific purpose of veterinary diagnosis the ideal scanning environment would be a large climate controlled, windowless room that has even ground and 'cold' lighting.
The likelihood of this in 'the field' is remote unless at a large veterinary practise. In reality it is usually possible to find an appropriate place; an indoor school, a covered area, outside when the conditions permit, an indoor barn, etc and take potential artefacts into account. At the very least an undercover area which is free from draughts and temperature variations is required.
The Camera and the Technology
The camera used is a hand held TH7800N Infrared Thermal Imager. It gives a high quality image of 320 x 240 pixels with a refresh rate of 60 frames per second. This provides a high quality thermal image giving excellent differentiation of temperature variations. The colour palette allows temperature differences to be clearly observed and will give the specific temperature readings at specific locations.
The software allows the observer to mark out particular spots for comparisons and allows the image to be viewed within different temperature ranges thereby providing further clarity into the source of the hottest or coolest area. The images are downloaded onto a computer. Images can be printed out on site or can be saved to file to be included in a written report.
These horses were referred back to their Vet!
This image is post medication of the lumbar back. After this imaging session the Vet chose to medicate the rest of the back; thoracic and lumbar.
This horse had been under Veterinary medication for a long term SI joint problem, presented further issues and was referred back to the Vet with images
This horse was referred back to the Vet and a diagnosis was subsequently made of both front limb lameness and is pending further investigation
A practical thermography service for the local area
Along with offering a service to Vets we are also aiming to benefit the horse-owner, rider, trainer and yard manager by offering a practical and useful management tool. Thermal imaging has a practical function in the everyday; review of saddle fit, rider balance, foot balance, etc, and has a role in working closely with para-professionals of the horse industry; saddlers, farriers, equine therapists, etc.
Whenever there is a medical problem highlighted the owner will ALWAYS be referred to their Veterinary Surgeon.