Thermography, also called Infrared Imaging, is the measurement of the surface temperature of an object. Because of it’s ability to see what’s not visible to the eye, it’s widely used in various business sectors. (detection of electrical dysfunctions, heat loss in manufactured housing, home inspections, water damage to roofs, mold detection, stress fractures in aircraft, etc).
It is referred to as a “Where” tool rather than a “What” tool. Because there are so many variables that can potentially effect the reading of a thermal image it should always be used in conjunction with a veterinarian who has the ability to interpret the significance of the imagery and if needed take further diagnostic measures such as x- rays.
It is a non-invasive diagnostic tool used in the horse world that enables a technician a way to provide a physiological assessment of the horse. It can pin-point problems in areas such as in lower backs and in the sacral area that are difficult (and expensive) to x-ray or scan and for its ability to monitor the healing progress of an injury. What you want to see are symmetrically balanced heat patterns. Thermal changes of more than 2 degrees are typically areas for concern. Its real value is in its ability to provide what is called “real time” imagery – you see what is happening as it is happening.
Training Evaluation –You can monitor the effects of a training regimen and detect musculoskeletal stresses before they manifest into injuries usually several weeks before they become visually detectable. Pre-Purchase Evaluation –This enables you to see problem areas that are not easily x-rayed such as back and sacral issues and other non-visible issues that should be evaluated further before a purchase is finalized. Nerve Dysfunction – A sympathetic nerve dysfunction is rarely diagnosed without the use of thermal images. This is a common cause of undiagnosed lameness in horses because the affected leg is cool to the touch of the hand; the contra lateral leg will feel warm in comparison and therefore is often thought to be the leg that has the pathology. This results in an improper diagnosis and inappropriate treatment.
Saddle Fit –Saddle fitting can be challenging. A saddle that “marginally” fits the horse properly can change dramatically once the weight of the rider is added. Even if you have a saddle the fits properly, this allows you to monitor the fit as the horse’s body changes through work and / or maturity. Hoof Issues –Navicular syndrome does not have an inflammatory thermal pattern, rather it is characterized by a reduced flow of blood to the caudal hoof. A normal horse will sustain a 0.5 degree C increase in temperature in the foot after exercise but most horses with navicular syndrome will not sustain this increase due to low blood flow. –Infrared imaging helps pinpoint the location of an abscess and / or solar bruising which aren’t visible on x-rays.
Muscle Injury –It’s greatest clinical application is in the assessment of muscle injuries which are difficult to diagnose. –It offers two types of information important in the evaluation of a muscle injury: first it can locate an area of inflammation associated with a specific muscle or muscle group. Muscle inflammation is most commonly seen as a “hot spot” in the skin directly overlying the affected muscle. secondly it illustrates atrophy before it becomes apparent clinically. On rare occasions, swelling and edema in the muscle will be severe enough to inhibit blood flow to the muscle which will cause it to be seen as a “cold spot”. When this occurs, evaluation must be made from paired samples comparing the left and right sides).
This horse was diagnosed with acute lymphangitis in his right hind leg. The image in the bottom left was taken 24-hours after treatment using Infrasound. Significant reduction has been made in the swelling and the amount of heat in the leg. It should be noted that the areas of heat on the front of both cannon bones are artifacts; hair loss.
This is a young horse that had injured his back and right shoulder as a result of a fall. The image in top photo was taken after exercise in the field. The bottom image was taken while treating the painful areas with Infrasound. Note the significant reduction of heat throughout the entire area after 9 minutes of treatment.
Hoof imbalance These two shots were taken of a horse that had been diagnosed with arthritic changes in its fetlocks and had been shod for corrective measures with what are called “rocker” shoes. He is a high-schooled stallion that tends to piaffe when nervous. He was asked to trot in hand the length of the barn aisle before I imaged his front feet. The top image is of his left front and the bottom of his right front. In the bottom image, he is landing with greater force on the right front, putting the majority of impact on the medial wall of the hoof at the break-over point (the white hot area) and rolling over to the lateral side of the hoof. In the top image,( his left front foot) he is landing on the medial heel / bar of the shoe.
Polo Pony with improper fitting saddle These images were taken of a young polo pony’s back at the end of a “chukka” to see the effects of an ill-fitting saddle and the rider’s balance on a horse’s back. The top image shows numerous areas of abnormal heat along the horse’s spine and withers. I checked the saddle prior to imaging to check for proper fitting. The saddle appeared very narrow for this horse’s back and shoulder conformation. The red and white hot spots at the withers indicate that the bars of the tree of the saddle were severely pinching the horse. By looking at these images, I would suspect that the rider was working more off the horse’s left side than it’s right. There is heat along the sacral area and in both hocks, especially the right hind.
Saddle Fitting Positioning a saddle too far forward can cause as much damage as using a saddle that is either too narrow or too wide, padding a saddle improperly or, using a saddle with a broken or twisted tree. A common problem is putting a saddle too far forward. It will bind the shoulder blade and the horse will act as if it has a sore neck, making it unable to extend its legs properly. The top image is of the horse’s back after being ridden. The bottom image is the underside of the saddle after riding. The cantal is at the top of the photo. These images show how this saddle was binding the left shoulder. And it is not evenly flocked. As a result the rider’s weight is not evenly distributed, causing discomfort to the horse’s back and shoulder areas. Notice the “red” areas along the spine. These indicate areas of stress in the horse’s vertebrae.
Saddle fitting This is another example of a saddle that is improperly flocked. Notice the lack of symmetry along the two panels. This slide shows that the rider was using its left leg more than the right. As you can see in the image of the horse’s back (bottom slide) the rider’s weight is not being distributed evenly and there is more pressure being put onto the left shoulder area and along the intercostal muscles.
Injury from a fall into a fence This horse fell on its left front shoulder into the fence boards. The lower two slides show the effect that this fall had on the horses back and the left point of the hip.
This is the same horse from the previous slide that fell into the fence and injured its neck and shoulders. These slides show the impact that the fall had on the rest of the horse’s back and hip area. The top slide was taken at rest. Note the inflammation along the spine and at the point of the left hip. The middle slide was taken when the horse was asked to lift its left front leg. Note the areas of increased heat along the spine, withers, point of hip (left) and the sacral area. The horse’s right front leg was lifted in the bottom slide. Notice how the right point of hip now shows increased heat and the increased heat along the center of the spine as well as in the sacral joint area.
Monitoring the onset of an acute medical condition The image on the left was taken on 7/3/04 as the lymphangitis is setting in, before any treatment. The center image, taken about two hours later was after hosing the leg. Heat is somewhat reduced but there is still significant heat and swelling in the leg. The image on the far right was taken the next day at 10:57 am. You can clearly see that the heat has seriously escalated and the leg has almost doubled in size.
Founder Condition By 11 am on 7/4/04 Tuffy’s leg was “full blown” with the lymphangitis. 12 hours later his condition was escalating and he began to founder in all four feet as shown in these images. The top slide are of his front feet, and the lower slide is of his hind. I immediately applied the Infrasound to the acupuncture points for founder, pain and circulation. The bottom slide was taken after an 18 minute treatment illustrates how rapidly the heat was reduced in all four feet.
Founder Condition I re-imaged Tuffy’s feet again about 6 hours later. The imaging shows the significant heat as seen in the previous slide has not returned to the hooves.
Horse with Hives – Symptom of Inflammatory Stress This horse was experiencing hives. The imaging was taken in the Fall and he had been wearing a light sheet prior to imaging, indicated by the black line at the top of his legs and along the base of his trunk. The onset of hives was sudden and the cause unknown. The veterinarian suspected that it might be due to a change in hay – first cutting to second.
A horse with hives is manifesting an inflammatory pattern associated with the skin. This is a close-up side view of his mid section where he had the hives. You can see how he has lowered his body’s temperature in this area to handle the stress.
The images below were taken of a “large animal” veterinarian’s left forearm. Her specialty is breeding and due to the constant use of this arm for palpating, she had overworked the muscles in the forearm and had stated that nothing seemed to relieve the soreness she was experiencing. The image on the left was taken after a 20 minute treatment with a NIKKEN PalmMag applied to the sore area which are pictured in the two images on the right. The heat has been totally removed.
This presentation was prepared using actual case studies imaged by Deborah Crane of Equine Sports Therapies. Deborah is certified in veterinarian applications of Digital Thermal Imaging, training at Vetel Diagnostics in San Luis Obispo, CA. To schedule an appointment contact Deborah Crane Equine Sports Therapies 32 Providence Road, Brooklyn, CT 06234 860-774-8027 or email @ email@example.com All images are the property of Equine Sports Therapies and can not be reproduced without permission.