October 2016 Issue - page 9

October 2016
Page 9
By Louisa Shepard
The barrel racer’s bone scan
showed a hot spot right where the
spine attaches to the base of the
skull, indicating an injury. But the
radiographs were inconclusive.
Hammer’s primary veterinar-
ian consulted with colleague Dr.
Christopher Ryan, New Bolton
Center Radiologist. Ryan said the
athletic Quarter Horse would be a
candidate for a clinical trial using
New Bolton Center’s EQUI-
MAGINE robotics-controlled
imaging system.
The new technology captures
three-dimensional, high-resolu-
tion computed tomography (CT)
images in the standing and mov-
ing horse without the need for
anesthesia. Penn Vet is the first
veterinary teaching hospital in the
world to own the revolutionary
“If he had a neck fracture
or any other serious lesion, we
would be concerned about the
recovery from anesthesia,” Ryan
said. “A standing CT was a good
Nikki Becker, Hammer’s
owner and rider, brought him
from their home near Saratoga,
NY, for the scan.
“I couldn’t create a plan of ac-
tion until we came to New Bolton
Center to know what we were
looking at,” Becker said, noting
that Hammer had been on strict
stall rest. “Fortunately, we got the
answers that we were looking for.”
Robotic Imaging System Diagnoses Barrel Horse’s Neck Fracture
Freak Accidents
Becker bought nine-year-old
Hammer, whose registered name
is CC Fancy Big Shine, in Sep-
tember of 2015. A competitive
rodeo rider, Becker was actually
looking for a roping horse for her
husband, but wanted a horse that
also “had a barrel-racing pattern”
as a back-up.
The two were just getting
started on their promising rodeo
season, placing in race after race
on the barrel-racing circuit, turning
in times in the 16-second range.
Then Hammer had two freak trailer
accidents one right after the other.
First he got his head caught in
the trailer window bars on the way
home from a rodeo on June 17.
Three days later, he spooked and
reared up while tied to the trailer,
and his two front legs came down
full force on the lead rope.
“It was the scariest day of
my life,” Becker said. Her friend
brought her a knife so she could
cut the line to free the tangled-up
Even after that dramatic acci-
dent, Hammer showed no signs
of injury, and Becker continued
workouts and competitions.
Weeks after the incidents, Ham-
mer exhibited “small changes,”
but nothing that would indicate
an injury, Becker said.
Until the weekend of July 17.
Hammer wasn’t quite
himself during the barrel race
at the pro rodeo in Vermont that
Saturday. The champion went
wide on the first barrel, stumbled
a bit on the second, then rounded
the third barrel perfectly, crossing
the finish line in 16.5 seconds. He
earned third place.
Becker took him to a local
jackpot the next day, confident he
would perform better. So when
Hammer ran by the first barrel,
refused the second, and toured
the ring on the third, Becker was
embarrassed, and very concerned.
“I knew in my gut that
something was wrong,” she said.
“I know my horse and I knew
something wasn’t right. I called
my vet on Monday.”
Solving the Mystery
Hammer’s primary vet is Dr.
Steven Sedrish of Upstate Medical
Center in Schuylerville, NY. He
took radiographs, but couldn’t
see anything definitive. Then he
took a bone scan, and a “hot spot”
showed up in Hammer’s cervical
vertebra, where the halter lies.
Becker brought him to New
Bolton Center for the CT scan
on August 4. Ryan and Dr. Dean
Richardson, Chief of Surgery,
handled the case. Hammer was the
first adult horse to have a scan of
the neck in the imaging system.
The sedated horse is posi-
tioned between the two, industrial
robotic arms that hold the x-ray
tube and digital x-ray detector
plate. The arms move in unison
around the head during the CT
scan collecting numerous digital
images, which takes only about 30
seconds to complete. These imag-
es look more like radiographs or
“x-rays” and are then reconstruct-
ed by a computer into what looks
like a more traditional CT scan.
“We were actually able to see
a tiny avulsion fracture on the CT
(Continued on page 12)
Penn Vet is the world’s first veterinary teaching hospital to own a robotics controlled CT imaging system,
which allows scans of the standing and moving horse without anesthesia.
Photo credit: New Bolton Center
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