Interventional ultrasound: changing the way equine vets manage patient problems

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With the expansion and development of a more advanced form of ultrasound-guided intervention, equine vets are changing the way they perform certain procedures in horses.

According to Dr Mary Beth Whitcomb from the University of California who presented at last week’s Bain Fallon Memorial Lectures in Melbourne, “interventional ultrasound can be used to perform minimally invasive procedures in horses from the removal of foreign bodies and fracture fragments to surgical procedures such as patellar ligament splitting.”

“The advantages of [such] procedures include reduced tissue trauma, reduced procedure time and client cost, and the ability to perform on the standing horse in appropriate cases and situations,” she said.

While ultrasound is often used to identify foreign material or fracture fragments in horses with trauma or wounds, it is often under-utilised in surgery to assist with their removal.

Yet being a less invasive option, Dr Whitcomb said “it’s important that equine vets consider the use of ultrasound-guidance in these situations—depending on the circumstances and available expertise.”

She added that ultrasound-guided placement of needles and drains can also be readily performed in the management of abscesses.

“Interestingly, clients have an increased perception of value when it comes to using ultrasound-guided approaches to abscesses because they can readily see fluid swirling within all visible regions of the abscess.”

In an effort to offer more minimally invasive approaches to surgical procedures in horses, ultrasound-guidance is now used for interventional tendon and ligament surgeries, and more advanced procedures such as stent placement for urinary disease. It is also used during more complex procedures related to cardiac disease.

“There is no doubt that there are some real benefits to using ultrasound-guided approaches in minimally invasive procedures,” said Dr Whitcomb.

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