Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Radiography, X-ray, Abdominal (in Adult)

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Due to the massive size of the equine abdomen, radiography of this area requires a very powerful x-ray generator to penetrate and create a diagnostic image. These high output x-ray machines are generally found only in large university teaching hospitals and large private practices.

Abdominal radiographs in adult horses are mostly taken when sand accumulation or enteroliths are suspected.

While a horse is standing, a powerful x-ray generator, usually mounted on a track or rolling cart, is positioned on one side of the horse. An image capture plate (either x-ray cassette with film or digital image capture) is positioned on the other side. X-rays pass through the horse and expose the image capture device. As with much of equine radiography today, in most cases, a digital image is created.

Benefits

This diagnostic is helpful in confirming or ruling out the presence of an enterolith or sand accumulation in the abdomen. Both enterolith and sand are called "radio-dense", meaning that they show up brightly on a radiograph because the x-rays penetrate them poorly.

Limitations

The proper equipment needed for abdominal x-ray are usually only found at large teaching hospitals and private referral hospitals. Typical x-ray equipment does not have the power to penetrate the abdomen of an average adult horse abdomen.

Although this is a very useful technique for detecting enteroliths, it is also possible to miss an enterolith using this diagnostic.

Abdominal radiography has limited use in the adult horse for making diagnoses other than sand and enteroliths.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • What are the chances that this technique fails to find an enterolith?
  • What is the nearest facility that can provide this service?
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