A recent 10-horse study by Bruce Lyle, DVM, a primary care equine practitioner in Aubrey, Texas, looked at using digital venography (injecting radio-opaque dye into a blood vessel to measure blood flow in the foot) to enhance a practitioner's ability to reasonably predict the course of laminitis early on, stimulate thought for new treatments, and to evaluate a horse’s response to treatment.

Lyle made two important points regarding the diagnostic use of venograms in his presentation: First, that diagnostic procedures such as venography should be used to confirm or rule out a diagnosis based on physical examination and history (such procedures should not be considered diagnostic by themselves). Second, a diagnostic procedure such as a venogram should only be performed if its outcome could change the treatment plan for the case. "The venogram has tremendous potential to do this, placing us in a position to be proactive rather than reactive in non-compensated cases," Lyle said.

One of the keys in digital venography, he said, is using a consistent procedure. "You’ve got to standardize your procedure so you can standardize your images and interpretation," he stated.

Based on his findings, Lyle suggested that venograms can be used to evaluate which of the three distinct vascular plexuses associated with the coffin bone might be compromised. Identification of the exact area(s) affected could lead to more exact medical and mechanical treatment.

"Like any other tissue, bone corium, papillae, and laminar cells depend on the influx of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood and the efflux of metabolic byproducts and wastes through the venous and lymphatic systems," he said. "Direct your (treatment) efforts toward medically and mechanically preserving the vascular architecture, relieving pain and suffering, and minimizing the opportunity for scar tissue formation, and your efforts are much more likely to be rewarded."

Many veterinarians and farriers have  reported an improvement in circulation and healing in their patients following the digital venogram procedure.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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