The New Frontier of Ultrasound

With my Acadia Equine Rehabilitation intern hat on, I accompanied Jenny and a client horse to the veterinarian for some diagnostics on the back: x-rays and ultrasound. As we trekked to Littleton Equine Medical Center, Jenny told me about Cooper Williams, a veterinarian who has revolutionized veterinary diagnostics with his use of the ultrasound. One of the vets at the Littleton clinic has studied courses with Williams, and we were excited to see what he would have to show us.

We looked at the x-rays, and then Jenny and I excitedly crowded around the vet and his ultrasound machine as he ran the probe along the horse’s topline. He pointed out markers of what we were looking at, showing us the shapes of the vertebrae and ribs sloping healthfully out. X-rays do not reveal soft tissue injuries, but the ultrasound is able to, so he took screen shots bilaterally to show us a damaged muscle and the opposing healthy version. We “ooo-ed” and “ahhhh-ed”, and then quickly made our way to the next room for the last ultrasound diagnostic. (Stopping briefly to peek in on a colic surgery, fascinating to see the portion of intestine out and moving from peristaltic contractions!)

For this version, the ultrasound probe is inserted rectally, similar to pregnancy checking in mares. In this scenario, however, the probe is rotated dorsally to “see” the vertebral column and sacroiliac (SI) area. Our eyes were bulging in excitement as the kind vet pointed out nerve bundles, the lumbar vertebrae, the location of the spinal cord, etc. He then rotated the probe to show us each SI joint, with the look of the bone and connections.

As we walked the horse back to the trailer, we bubbled in awe about what ultrasound can show. This truly is a fascinating diagnostic tool that is gaining more and more recognition for its ability to reveal soft tissue injuries. Talk about a nerd-ily awesome day!

Written by Callie Rulli – Skylark Animal Bodywork