Innovative CT Scanner for Horses Debuts

At a starting price of $425,000, Equimagine uses robotic technology to perform multiple modalities.

The two-robot Equimagine system is known as Helios. A four-robot set-up goes by the name Zeus.

4DDI

Standing up for horses, a New York company has introduced a computed tomography (CT) system that permits whole-body scans of upright and moving equine patients.

The Equimagine system uses two or four robotic arms to capture high-resolution, high-speed images from any direction within as little as five to 15 seconds.

One of the first installations is planned at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center, where surgery chief Dean W. Richardson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, said the system can be used to diagnose fractures.

“We believe that the technology will allow early identification of horses with incomplete occult fractures in areas that can proceed to catastrophic failure,” Dr. Richardson said.

Equimagine, manufactured by Four Dimensional Digital Imaging (4DDI), is designed to generate CT, fluoroscopic and bone-density images and conduct tomosynthesis, dynamic video radiography imaging and digital radiography.

A major benefit, 4DDI President George Papaionannou said, is that equine patients are not anesthetized and may be scanned in load-bearing positions such as standing or walking and running on a treadmill.

The system will save practitioners “hours and logistical nightmares” compared with the use of traditional equipment, he said.

CT scanners often require the use of anesthesia so patients remain still, but Equimagine allows horses to move under sedation.

“4DDI is the first company in the world to produce algorithms that work with robots to anticipate, detect and correct for stereotactic motion in the field of view,” Papaionannou said. “Of course it is always better to have the patient scanned while perfectly still, but we know that this is not always the case.”

Equimagine’s exclusive distributor is Universal Medical Systems Inc. of Solon, Ohio, whose president, David Zavagno, was instrumental in bringing the technology to the equine market. He found Papaionannou at a Radiological Society of North America show in 2014.

“I met with George and said, ‘The equine world, where we cannot scan a standing horse, is where you need to look at,” Zavagno said.

They traveled the country together—to equine practices and veterinary colleges—until Papaionannou “kind of realized what the opportunity was,” Zavagno said.

“So over the last 11 months they’re been developing it,” he said.

The system was displayed in December at the America Association of Equine Practitioners conference in Las Vegas.

Cornell University’s Ruffian Equine Specialists is the first customer, followed by New Bolton and practices in New Jersey, California, Texas, Wyoming and Dubai.

Equimagine is a major investment for buyers, carrying a list price of $425,000 for two robots and $895,000 for four. The purchase would make long-term financial sense, Zavagno said, if a practice did at least four scans a week at $500 to $700 each.

Images are shown at a computer workstation, where a horse’s head, neck, joints and posture may be analyzed, for example, and soft-tissue deformation tracked.

Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center has assorted plans for its Equimagine system.

“The open structure of the scanner will allow us to capture high-quality CT images of the standing horse that we have had difficulty imaging before,” said medical director Barbara Dallap Schaer, VMD, Dipl. ACVS, Dipl. ACVECC.

“We will be working to develop protocols to diagnose problems in the lower neck, back, pelvis and upper part of the legs.”

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