Gamma Camera for Equine Athletes

Tuesday, 31 October, 2000

The horse racing industry has embraced nuclear science, in a bid to keep equine athletes on track. Horses, like human athletes, suffer from a wide variety of stress fractures of the bones. For horses, this damage can have fatal consequences.

A solution is the gamma camera, which is being used in diagnostic animal nuclear medicine for the treatment of bone fractures of top thoroughbreds.

The procedure works by injecting horse with a mixture of a radioactive isotope like techetium-99 and hydroxy diphosphonate (HDP), which is an inorganic binder. The technetium-99 a commonly-used radioisotopes for this purpose. The technetium carries the HDP to the surface of the bone through the muscle and ligament layers. The isotope gives off radiation and the gamma camera translates this into a snapshot of the bone. A picture of the horse's health can then be analysed.

Weighing in at 400 kg, the gamma camera is used in the early detection and treatment of bone stress fractures and other degenerative bone diseases that could be the difference between a potential cup winner or a visit to the glue factory.

There is no danger of radioactivity to the animal as the procedure gives off about as much radiation as an ordinary chest X-ray.

The practice is also being used for other athletic equines such as dressage, event and jumping horses, although 75% of the animals diagnosed are racehorses.

This procedure has a number of advantages over traditional X-rays or ultra-sound including the ability to detect micro-fractures around joints and examine the upper body of the animal.

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