MAGNETIC resonance imaging (MRI) involves the interaction between an external magnetic field, radiowaves and hydrogen nuclei in the body. Although MRI has been used in human medicine for over 20 years, its value as an imaging modality in equine orthopaedic disease has only recently been recognised. The high tissue contrast afforded by MRI makes it ideal for the assessment of articular cartilage, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, synovium and bone marrow. In humans, MRI has become the imaging technique of choice for the investigation of many musculoskeletal structures, and the procedure is also increasingly being used for the diagnosis of orthopaedic conditions in small animals. In the horse, experience so far suggests that MRI has great potential for improving the diagnosis and understanding of lameness, and its clinical use is currently being undertaken at several centres around the world. This article explains the principles of MRI and describes how the technique may be used clinically to aid the diagnosis of equine lameness.
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