Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Radiography, X-ray, Contrast Study



Contrast studies are radiographic studies in which a contrast material (dye liquid or paste) is injected or ingested, allowing the examiner to better visualize a disease process or injury in radiographs. Regular radiographs only provide a clear picture of the bones. The contrast material is radiopaque (shows up white on a radiograph), and increases visibility of other structures.

In equine practice, contrast studies help define whether or not a foreign body exists within a draining tract or wound. In a myelogram, contrast material is injected into the space surrounding the spinal cord and radiographed. Barium compounds are swallowed to radiographically define esophageal strictures.

Reasons to UseRelated Observations


Contrast studies provides greater visualization of the structures in question by defining and highlighting the area around it. It is much more sensitive than plain radiographs, and much more helpful in defining a problem.


Timing of the acquisition of the radiograph must coincide well to the injection of contrast. A single radiograph generates a 2-dimensional image that may not provide the examiner spatial orientation. Due to the limitations of the x-ray generator used only certain portions of the horse may be radiographed.

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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