New Technology Enables Horse Scan Breakthrough

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It seems that new technology has potentially revolutionized the way that respiratory diseases are diagnosed in race horses. New equipment developed and currently in use in Scotland allows vets to assess horses while they train under more natural circumstances than previously possible.

The pioneering piece of equipment in question is called a Dynamic Respiratory Endoscope. The device essentially enables vets to asses live footage of a horse’s airways while it is galloping at full speed during a training session. Previously this was done under far less ‘natural’ conditions as the horse was placed on a treadmill while the endoscope was threaded down its nostril and data was recorded on surrounding instrumentation. This put both the horse and researchers in a considerable amount of danger since the situation was very stressful for the horse and also meant that conditions were not replicated exactly since there was no jockey, no open spaces and no fresh air. But all of that looks set to change do to the newly developed equipment.

The Dynamic Respiratory Endoscope was developed as part of a joint venture between the University of Glasgow’s Equine Hospital and Mark Johnston Racing. The endoscope will allow vets to better assess the reasons behind poor race performances due to diseases affecting the respiratory area. The fact that the new system enables the horse to be tested under more ‘natural’ conditions also means that diagnoses are more likely to be accurate.

But how does it all work? The jockey wears a backpack that is connected to the endoscope that is fitted to the horse in question. The information recorded by the camera is then relayed to a small hand-held screen held by the vet via Wi-Fi. The vet may be up to half a kilometer away and still receive the information, so at the average race track he should have a fairly continuous update of the horse’s respiratory tract. This may be a somewhat unusual use of Wi-Fi technology, but it certainly an ingenious one.

Racehorse trainer Mark Johnston commented that the new equipment was a leap forward in diagnosing problems. We may well see the Dynamic Respiratory Endoscope in full use across the world very soon. Until then, however, it will be used and tested by the University of Glasgow’s newly launched Performance Horse Clinic.