Standing horse scanner passes safety test

The University of California at Davis completed the first phase of validation of the MILE-PET, a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner designed to image the limbs of standing horses. The scanner, made by Longmile Veterinary Imaging, only requires light sedation, eliminating the need for anesthesia, according to the university.

Six horses participated in the first phase of the validation process, designed to test the safety of the system. The horses were imaged twice with the standing scanner and once under general anesthesia, allowing researchers to confirm the repeatability of findings and compare the new scanner’s results with results using the technique developed for anesthetized horses.

The horses tolerated all of the procedures well, according to the announcement. All imaging sessions were successful with no complications reported. The quality of images obtained on the standing horses was similar to the quality of those taken from when they were anesthetized.

Scan lengths ranging from one to 10 minutes were compared, and researchers concluded that a four-minute scan is long enough to obtain images of high diagnostic quality.

The scanner will now move on to clinical trials in racehorses, first at UC Davis and then at the Santa Anita Park in mid-December. Researchers plan to image as many horses as possible at the park over the coming year. Once they have a database, they’ll try to identify patterns in horses at risk of breakdown.

“PET has a very interesting role to play in racehorses, as it detects changes at the molecular level, before structural changes occur,” said Dr. Mathieu Spriet, an associate professor and the supervisor of the safety test. “In other words, PET provides warning signs that injuries might happen. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, as we need to learn to distinguish the PET changes that reflect normal adaptation to speed work from changes that are indicative of high risk for major injuries.”