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They develop a simple, low-cost CT device to detect and prevent injuries in horses


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They develop a simple, low-cost CT device to detect and prevent injuries in horses


A project developed by scientific staff from the Institute of Instrumentation for Molecular Imaging (i3M), a joint center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), has created an ergonomically designed CT device (Computerized Axial Tomograph) for the exploration of horse extremities, with the aim of detecting common injuries in these animals in time and being able to prevent them to improve animal well-being.

The project has been coordinated by the CSIC researcher at the I3M Laura Moliner and was carried out thanks to a contract with the British company Hallmarq Veterinary Imaging Ltd. and the "close collaboration" between entities, as reported by the participating centers in their respective communications.

A year before the end of the contract in 2022, it had already been launched as a product in the United States. Currently, there are more than 10 units sold in equine veterinary hospitals, in addition to having mobile devices that can be rented.

As detailed, all horse riding disciplines cause stress in both bone structures and soft tissues and many competition horses experience "extreme forces" in the structures of the lower extremities while executing transitions such as tight turns or rapid accelerations.

Lameness following injury to the distal extremity is common. The objective of developing a CT scan for the examination of the extremities of horses was to diagnose these injuries, monitor their evolution as well as prevent possible injuries.

The i3M scientific team opted to develop a simple, low-cost device that could take a three-dimensional image in one minute. According to researcher Laura Moliner, "our system consisted of an X-ray detector panel, close to the extremity to be able to explore the greatest possible extent, and an floor, so that the animal to be explored does not have difficulties in positioning itself and it was taken into account that the entire system at a mechanical level was silent so as not to cause any type of discomfort during the acquisition.

As Moliner explains, "it is a minimally invasive equipment focused on animal comfort. The geometries are studied and the instrumentation chosen so that all the radiation emitted by the source is contained within the panel, but evidently there is dispersed radiation, for For example, due to the limb of the horse, which must be taken into account so as not to irradiate the user. Therefore, in the design it was essential to have a lead screen that would protect the user but that, at the same time, would allow him to be in the room. with the horse ensuring its well-being during the acquisition".

The system allows you to visualize the lameness of an equine on a daily basis, thanks to the three-dimensional visualization of the musculoskeletal image, essential in places with a significant workload in sports medicine. Likewise, it facilitates the planning of surgeries, detects non-displaced fractures and changes in bone density, as well as better differentiation of subchondral versus cortical bone pathology, thanks to the high resolution.

One of the main points in the development of the system was that it be silent and as least intrusive as possible for the horse. Therefore, this device could scan the limbs of any other type of large animal that requires it, such as, for example, animals in reserves or sanctuaries that have suffered an injury to their limbs and their evolution is being monitored. The patent for the TAC device is owned by the British company Hallmarq Veterinary Imaging Ltd.