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Computed Tomography (CT, CAT) Scan



CT or CAT scan combines a series of two-dimensional radiographic images taken from various angles to produce cross-sectional images or “slices” of the bones and soft tissues within a horse that are viewed sequentially. They can be assembled in a manner that provides the examiner with a three-dimensional visualization.

This diagnostic is helpful in a variety of circumstances. It is the diagnostic of choice for problems involving the equine head, and is the preferred over MRI for bone. By using injected contrast dye, detailed images of soft tissues also can be acquired.

The body part in question is put within the CT scanner circular “gantry,” which houses the electronics. A series of radiographs are taken from different angles and at different exposures. Detectors within the gantry detect the radiographic images. A computer processes all of these images into a cross sectional image.


CT scan provides much more information than conventional radiography. Unlike MRI, larger body parts can fit in the scanner including stifles, heads and necks. Unlike MRI, modern CT scans are fast. A typical CT of the head is performed in about a minute.


There are still limitations regarding the size of equine body parts that fits within the unit. CT can be used on the head and stifle of the horse but not the body. In equine practice, CT scans requires general anesthesia because a horse must be completely still during the procedure.

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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