Churchill Downs to Install PET Scan at Equine Medical Center

Major Technological Medical Advancement Can Help Detect and Prevent Equine Medical Injuries

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022) – A major technological medical advancement that can help detect and prevent equine medical injuries is coming to Churchill Downs Racetrack.

In conjunction with Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and the PetVet Care Centers network, Churchill Downs will soon install an equine PET scan machine at its Equine Medical Center in the Churchill Downs stable area that will help veterinarians and horsemen assess the racing soundness of Thoroughbred horses that compete at the historic Louisville racetrack.

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is a diagnostic imaging test that can help identify abnormal metabolic activity in the bones of a racehorse’s fetlock (ankle). Recent scientific studies have supported PET image findings as a highly effective diagnostic approach for identifying potential issues in the lower limbs of race horses. Repeated PET scans can also be used to monitor a horse’s recovery prior to returning to strenuous athletic work.

A significant benefit to PET technology, which produce detailed three-dimensional images similar to CT (Computed Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans, is that horses do not require general anesthesia. Developed by Longmile Veterinary Imaging, the MILE-PET scanner allows horses to be examined while standing and under sedation. The entire imaging process takes less than five minutes and, after a short recovery from sedation, the horses are able to walk back to their barns. All collected images are digital and can be viewed instantaneously to allow the attending veterinarian to formulate the best therapeutic plan for the horse.

The pairing of PET scans with other imaging methods will greatly advance the identification of at-risk horses. This will allow for early veterinary intervention to improve both the safety and welfare of race horses.

The PET scan technology for equine athletes is relatively new. The first scanner at a racetrack was installed at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. in December 2019. Churchill Downs will be the only racetrack outside of California to have a MILE-PET machine on-site.

The MILE-PET scanner at Churchill Downs is expected to be available for use at the Equine Medical Center when the stable area opens to horses in March 2023.

“We are beyond excited to able to partner with Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, a world-class equine hospital in Lexington, Ky. to bring this ground-breaking diagnostic imaging to Churchill Downs,” said Dr. William Farmer, Equine Medical Director for Churchill Downs Incorporated. “To be able to have this advanced level of diagnostics available on-site is a great step forward to improving the welfare and safety of our local horses.”

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