Nuclear Scintigraphy

Nuclear Scintigraphy or Bone Scanning is the most commonly performed equine nuclear medicine procedure because it allows veterinarians to evaluate the entire equine skeleton (or a region) making it an ideal tool for diagnosing difficult or multi-factorial lameness.  Bone scanning is especially useful in detecting bone inflammation when lameness is difficult to diagnose or when the complaint is that the horse is not performing up to his/her athletic expectations. A bone scan is much more sensitive than radiographs in detecting lameness related to bone inflammation. At Virginia Equine Imaging, we provide state of the art nuclear medicine services complete with motion correction software.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Scintigraphy

When should I bring my horse into the clinic for his/her scheduled procedure?

  • During cold weather months we prefer the horse arrive the night before the scan to insure it is kept warm in our temperature-controlled stall.Standing wraps need to be put on the night prior to the bone scan, as the image quality is improved when the horse’s body temperature is kept uniformly warm. In the winter months, please put a light blanket on in addition to the wraps to keep the horse warm.
  • During warm weather months, it is important to arrive at the clinic by 7:30am on the morning of the procedure as the dose of the radioisotope is specifically calculated for this time. Or you may drop your horse off the night before.
  • When you arrive complete a Feed Chart and any notes for supplements/meds and a Disclosure Form. Bring your horse’s am and pm feed and any medications discussed with our vets as appropriate.

How is the bone scan performed?

  • The morning of the bone scan the patient is exercised on the lunge pad, if appropriate, then injected intravenously with the short acting radioisotope Tc 99 MDP, linked to a bone tracer agent. The patient is then stabled in a secure stall for approximately 2 hours while the radioisotope circulates systemically throughout the horse’s body. The horse is next tranquilized (standing sedation) and imaged with the gamma camera. Areas of bony inflammation are indicated in the computerized pictures as areas of increased uptake and described as focal or diffuse and mild, moderate or intense.

How long does the procedure take?

  • Depending on whether a hind-end, front-end or full body bone scan is performed, the procedure usually takes a minimum of four hours, including periodic stall breaks for your horse.  The bone scan images will be read by the doctors when the day’s appointments are completed.  After reviewing the images, your veterinarian will determine a plan which may include additional diagnostics and treatment. (Including: additional nerve blocks, intra-articular injections, digital radiographs, ultrasound, etc.) The owner will be contacted to discuss the bone scan findings and further diagnostic options.

When is it safe for my horse to go home following the procedure?

  • The Tc labeled radiopharmaceutical is cleared through the renal system (kidneys, urine); therefore, it is necessary to keep the patient in a secured location for 24 hours to reduce radiation to personnel involved in the work-up of the case.

Can I observe the Nuclear Scintigraphy Imaging session?

  • Due to the nuclear scintigraphy radiation regulations, clients are unable to observe the procedure. Authorized personnel only are allowed to handle the patients after the isotope has been injected and throughout the procedure.

How is the information recorded?

  • Following the bone scan, images from the procedure will be printed and a formal report outlining our findings will be prepared for the client as well as the referring veterinarian.

Is Nuclear Scintigraphy covered by insurance?

  • In many cases, but not all, the nuclear scintigraphy procedure is financed by your horse’s insurance company. Therefore, it is important to contact your insurance agency prior to the examination, and provide us with the appropriate paper work.

Nuclear Scintigraphy Exam Costs:

  • Whole Body: $2195.00
  • Front or hind End: $1835.00

The items below are included in the total fee.

  • Office call
  • Hospitalization
  • Sedation
  • Isotope
  • Nuclear Scintigraphy Imaging and Report

Additional Imaging / diagnostics / treatment plans will be billed separately.

If for any reason the bone scan needs to be cancelled or rescheduled, it is imperative to inform our office so that we may cancel the isotope order before the conclusion of our business hours (8:00am – 5:00pm) of the day prior to the scheduled bone scan. The charge of the isotope will be $600 if the dose is not cancelled.

Click here for the Nuclear Scintigraphy form.

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