Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an advanced medical imaging system, similar to the ultrasound. It is formulated on optical interference; the same method used in holography. OCT uses the technology of reflection to capture the image as near infrared light is pointed on tissues, resulting in 3-dimensional, cross-sectional images of objects can be captured.
Finnish researchers have some good news for horse owners, as they can now get detailed images of their horses’ joints by using OCT. Arthroscopy, which is conventionally used for imaging, uses a tiny camera inside a joint but this technology has some limitations as it cannot display images of all parts of the joint. Moreover, arthroscopy does not allow the examination of the cartilage under the surface, and it cannot check the accurate thickness of the cartilage.
The camera used in arthroscopy quite often fails to capture the changes in the cartilage due to gradual degeneration. On the other hand, there is dispute among the veterinarians on the findings from the images of arthroscopy, which is a major drawback for correct diagnosis. It is often difficult to cover important region of articular surface with an arthroscopy. It is not possible to reach many parts in equine joints by using traditional arthroscopy. Fortunately, doctors can overcome many of these limitations by using OCT.
Tytti Niemelä, DVM, PhD, of University of Helsinki, in Finland, believes that OCT is the answer to these complications. Though dispute among the observers regarding the result of the test would remain but the odds are much better in comparison to arthroscopy.
Detectors in the system measure the small amount of light reflected from the structures inside the joint. Ultrasound imaging requires close contact with the part of the body, whereas OCT does not need that. The quality of the image is much better as well improving equine joint tests since OCT can get more detailed images as light waves are shorter in comparison to sound waves. OCT is a diagnostic imaging technique which is often used in eye and cardiac surgery.
Frequent injury in joint causes cartilage lesions in horses, and race horses are more prone to injury especially during tough training sessions. A major injury in the joint can develop into post-traumatic osteoarthritis, causing a threat to the future of a race horse. So it is very important to get a clear image of the injured joint and correct grading of chordal lesions for the best available treatment.
OCT can get images of those joints that are virtually unreachable to arthroscopy. In the near future, OCT evaluation of cartilage could become a reality. There is no reason to think that OCT is taking the place of arthroscopy, rather the two techniques together would provide the best overall view of an injured joint to achieve the right diagnosis. Many vets are now relaying on both OCT and arthroscopy for better insights and more accurate diagnoses.
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