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August 17, 2017

High-tech for horses: New whole body CT system uses robotic technology


Robotics-driven design provides an unlimited range of motion and unencumbered access to the horse’s entire anatomy.

From Universal Medical Systems, Inc., of Solon, Ohio, and Equine 4DDI comes a new computed tomography (CT) system allowing for whole-body scans of standing and moving horses. The equipment, called Equimagine, operates as an imaging workstation using two or four robotic arms to capture CT, fluoroscopic and bone-density images, tomosynthesis, dynamic video radiography imaging and digital radiography

Equimagine was unveiled earlier this month at the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The imaging system will be capable of capturing the equine anatomy in a way never before possible, while the horse is awake, load-bearing, as well as moving on a treadmill. “This will revolutionize equine imaging,” says Barbara Dallap Schaer, VMD, DACVECC, DACVS, medical director of New Bolton Center, the large animal hospital of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. The university is the first veterinary hospital to own this technology.

According to a university release, ​the four-robot system can perform multiple modalities, including CT and can be used in conjunction with a high-speed treadmill. In the standing horse, this technology allows for the analysis of previously hard-to-image areas including the lower back, back, pelvis and upper part of the legs.

In sport horses, subtle problems of the neck, back, and pelvis affect performance; these are areas of substantial concern for riders and trainers. Having the ability to image these areas more effectively could mean a more accurate diagnosis.

According to the Penn Vet release, other benefits include:

> The fluoroscopy and CT capabilities of the system have tremendous potential for advancing cardiovascular imaging and treatment.

> The new four-dimensional imaging is much more detailed and can help to identify not only a fracture, but also its specific characteristics: location, depth, and breadth. ​Using the new technology will help to prevent injuries, especially in racehorses.

> The technology will allow early identification of horses with incomplete “occult” fractures in areas that can proceed to catastrophic failure.

“This is the most exciting development in veterinary imaging in over 50 years by enabling robotically driven imaging,” says David Zavagno, president of Universal Medical Systems. “Never before has a product launched with 10 million dollars in backorders.”

Indeed, the Equimagine system is no small investment—prices start at $425,000 for Helios, the two-robot system. Universal Medical Systems offers fee-per-scan, straight lease and purchase options on all of their systems, according to their website.

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