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Standing MRI

Horses and ponies throughout Ireland with lameness problems, can now be MRI scanned in a bid to identify the precise cause of the lameness.  Troytown Grey Abbey Equine Hospital and Hallmarq Veterinary Imaging have co-operated to install the Standing MRI unit.  The aim of the facility is to speed up the diagnosis process and help racehorses, sport horses and leisure horses back on the road to recovery.​  The Hallmarq MRI Scanner is located in a purpose designed building, situated within the main equine hospital site and our specialist team of veterinarians and nurses at Troytown Grey Abbey are fully trained to use the scanner.

How can MRI help?


Often during a lameness work-up ‘nerve blocks’ will be used to discover where the pain is coming from. This is then followed with X-ray or ultrasound examinations, but because these imaging tools only show bone (x-ray) or mainly soft tissues (ultrasound) it is common not be able to identify the significant problem.


In these cases a standing MRI can save time, money and worry through an early, safe and accurate diagnosis.


Early – because as soon as the ‘nerve blocks’ confirm the location you can ask for an MRI to help reach an accurate diagnosis. You don’t have to spend money trying different treatments and then MRI in 3 – 6 months time as a last resort.

Safe because the Hallmarq system is performed in standing horses, thus avoiding the risks of general anaesthesia in our elite athletes.

Accurate because in the absence of X-ray or ultrasound findings you are often having to rely on judgement and not a positive clear-cutdiagnosis. For example, some papers report that injecting the navicular bursa can give good results provided there are no associated changes on the flexor surface of the navicular bone; in these cases the prognosis is poor. A standing MRI will help you differentiate which palmar foot pain cases have a good prognosis and merit treatment and which don’t.

MRI needs to be used in conjunction with a thorough clinical examination and other appropriate tests. The following criteria will help to select the correct cases:

  • Chronic lameness which has been localised to the foot or in the lower limb by nerve block.

  • In situations where radiographs are negative or equivocal.

  • Access to the injured area by ultrasound is difficult or impossible.

  • For penetrating foot injuries needing urgent attention.

  • After acute onset of lameness during exercise.

  • To monitor treatment and healing before returning to work.

MRI Practicalities

It takes a good few hours to get quality MRI scans and the horses have to be sedated for the scanning so they stand very still.  The scans can be organised on an out-patient basis, or by admittance to the hospital for the period necessary to get the scans.


If you would like further information on MRI scanning, then please contact us at the hospital 045521686. 

Two different slices through the fetlock joint from front to back

Section through hoof at post mortem

Foot X-ray - side view

Foot MRI - side view

MRI in use

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