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Equine center adds nuclear imaging

By Jeff Douglas

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 17 - January 26, 1995

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center added an advanced technology diagnostic service when its new nuclear-scintigraphy service began operations in December.

Nuclear scintigraphy is a diagnostic imaging procedure which involves injecting a radioactive isotope into the patient and evaluating internal body structures with a special camera that detects gamma radiation.

The procedure is especially useful in diagnosing lamenesses and other locomotion problems in performance and pleasure horses.

"We're very pleased to begin this important new service," said G. Frederick Fregin, center director. "As a referral center, this is the sort of advanced diagnostic resource we are committed to provide for our referring veterinarians and clients."

The procedure involves administering a radioisotope "tagged" to a bone-seeking substance, such as a phosphate, to the horse. The material accumulates in areas of the skeletel system where there is a great deal of bone-making activity taking place, and is then imaged using the special camera.

"This is an exciting new area for us," said Nat White, assistant director for clinical services at the center. "Nuclear imaging will extend our diagnostic capabilities beyond what radiographs, ultrasound and other modes of portable bone scans can offer."

A newly renovated scintigraphy suite houses two gamma cameras positioned to provide full body scans, White said. One of the cameras is recessed in the floor to allow full hoof views. The camera system is linked to a Macintosh computer system which generates color scintigraphs of the structures being evaluated.

Horses admitted to the hospital for the procedure must stay a minimum of two nights. After the isotope is administered, patients are isolated for about 24 hours while the radioisotope is metabolized and safe levels are achieved.

The acquisition will be an important part of the center's planned Equine Lameness and Performance Analysis Center.

The new service was made possible by an equipment donation from the University of Virginia.

Steve Trostle, a D.V.M. who recently completed a surgical residency at the University of Wisconsin, will specialize in scintigraphy. Radiology Department supervisor Wynell Carter has also received extensive training in scintigraphy.

Founded in 1984 with a $4 million gift from the late Marion duPont Scott on 200 acres of land donated by the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation, the Equine Medical Center functions as the Leesburg Campus of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.