What is Thermography? Thermography, also known as thermal imaging, has been used since the 1970’s by the military and construction industries to detect anomalies within images using a digital infrared camera designed to visualize thermal patterns. In the last two decades it has been adopted by both the medical and veterinary industry as well. Thermal imaging is currently applied by Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, NASA as well as hundreds of medical facilities globally.
Digital infrared cameras display changes that are 'physiologic' in nature- in live time versus other tools which are 'anatomical', such as the CT Scan or radiograph (x-ray). The latter detects a structural process that is static in time, such as a broken bone. Thermal imaging can detect physiologic or functional processes that are happening at that moment; i.e., inflammation of a tendon, ligament, or muscle tissue. Studies have shown that thermography can detect injury up to three weeks prior to horses displaying clinical lameness. (Turner, Equine Sports Medicine and Science, 2002).
Thermography is often used to proactively plan for injury rehabilitation, as well as when it is advised to consider other modalities like acupressure, massage, cold laser, or other protocols offered by your veterinarian. It does not replace other diagnostics (x-ray, ultrasound) but is best used in combination to pinpoint areas of concern and/or monitor the healing process.
How does it work? Thermal imaging cameras can detect heat at the skin's surface. The camera then creates a detailed picture called a thermogram derived from the infrared radiation emitted from the horse's skin. This data is uploaded to a computer with specially designed thermal imaging software which creates a map of thermal patterns within the body. As the body's vascular, muscular and neural systems are typically symmetrical, any deviation can signal early lesions, disease or inflammatory processes.
“Skin temperature is largely under the control of the autonomic nervous system and inflammatory processes. Sagittal symmetry is expected throughout the body. Asymmetric IR (infrared) emission of 1°C or greater can be indicative of sympathetic nervous system dysfunction or other pathology.” American Academy of Thermology
In normal animals, there is a symmetrical dermal pattern which is consistent. So an increase in temperature in a thermal pattern can indicate inflammation, injury or disease. In contrast, a decrease in temperature in a thermal pattern can indicate loss of blood circulation, possible nerve damage or edema. This technology is highly sensitive and can record the data to within .01 degree Celsius, far more sensitive than the human hand can palpate. Accurate, non-invasive, and non-contact, there is NO radiation exposure to the horse or technician.
Some applications for digital thermography include:
Detection of soft tissue injury
Detection of inflammation
Detection of muscle injury/inflammation
Detection of nerve injury
Sports and rehab medicine
Effects of current saddle fit on horse’s back
Monitor efficacy of laser, massage, acupressure sessions
Assessment of hoof balance/injury/disease
Monitor level of condition for competition
Forelimb/hind limb injury
Certified Equine Thermography Technician through Equitherm UK
Currently serving Grand Isle, Chittenden, Franklin, Lamoille, and Washington counties.
Prior to scheduling a thermography scan, please contact me regarding the horse's required preparation in order to obtain the most accurate images and detailed report. Once scheduled, I will send you an intake form to fill out with the horse's history. Full body scans take approximately 20-30 minutes at your barn. This site is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult a veterinarian for diagnosis, emergencies and treatment. Vermont Equine Acupressure llc will not be held liable for information gathered from this site.