Diagnostic Aids for Neurological Cases
Diagnostic tools, like those below, are essential to helping your vet get the most accurate picture of the cause behind a horse’s neurological problem. While the first three tests are relatively common, in some cases your veterinarian may want to use the other tools to provide more clarity or detail to provide a more precise diagnosis.
Blood tests to check for antibodies to specific equine diseases
A spinal tap to check for antibodies or evidence of inflammation of the nervous system; Dr. Johnson, an assistant professor at the
University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center, further explains that “certain patterns of inflammation can give the vet a hint as to the type of disease, showing evidence of parasites, fungal infection or tumors.”
Radiographs (X-rays) of the neck or spine to check for signs of wobblers, arthritic changes or fractures
Myelograms, which are a special type of radiograph where your horse is anesthetized and laid down on his side, a contrast agent (dye) is injected around his spinal cord and images are taken with your horse’s neck in different positions. They can accurately identify pressure on the spinal cord or vertebral narrowing or instability, confirming what may only be suspected from an X-ray.
Magnetic resonance imaging, a diagnostic imagining technology that could allow a veterinarian to identify structural problems or inflammation of the brain or spinal cord
Computed tomographyscans, which provide high-resolution images of bone and some soft-tissue structures in multiple planes, yielding much more information than standard radiographs
Electrodiagnostic testing to assess nerve and muscle function, although Dr. Johnson notes that this is not a common diagnostic tool because it requires specialized expertise and equipment only available through a limited number of veterinary hospitals
Nuclear scintigraphy, also known as bone scans, can show inflammation in the bones or where ligaments attach to bone.
Dr. Johnson notes that diagnostics are one area of equine neurology that’s seen improvements in recent years. For instance, “the knowledge of needing to compare blood and spinal fluid [to identify EPM] is really recent,” she notes. In addition, she says, “Imaging is getting better. We’re able to image more parts of the horse. We do more brain MRIs in horses than in the past. We can take CT scans of the horse’s neck and, here at the University of Pennsylvania, we now have a robotic CT system” that allows vets to scan more of the horse more easily. (For an overview of the robotic CT scanner, go to www.practicalhorsemanmag.com)
Nuclear scintigraphy, also called a bone scan, can be a helpful diagnostic aid for a neurological issue.