Hallmarq Veterinary Imaging

For the development of an MRI scanner and motion correction software used to image the lower leg of a horse while it is conscious and standing. The scanner has revolutionised equine lameness diagnosis and improved animal welfare.

Accurate MRI scanning of horses is notoriously difficult. Laying a horse down under anaesthesia carries significant risk, making conventional methods unsuitable for routine MRI scanning of horses. However, MRI scanning of a standing horse is also problematic: even with excellent positioning and sedation the limb will move slightly during image acquisition, which can degrade the resultant images and compromise diagnosis.

Hallmarq's solution allows for horses to be accurately scanned while standing. It uses a small U-shaped moveable magnet which can fit around one leg of a standing horse and advanced motion correction software to create a stable and reliable image. The software uses one dimensional MR navigators with adaptive edge detection to interact in real-time with the data acquisition process and assess the degree of patient motion. If this movement is excessive, the scanner rejects and repeats data fragments and moves the slice positions. The scanner can produce diagnostic images even when there has been significant movement near the edges of the imaging field of view.

The innovation has greatly improved the welfare of horses. As well as eliminating the risks involved with placing a horse under general anaesthetic, Hallmarq’s system is being used preventatively to monitor bone density in racehorses providing crucial insights into which animals are at risk of fatal fractures while racing.

The company

Hallmarq, based in Guildford, was established in 2000 to satisfy the need for a standing equine MRI product. This system is now firmly established and has been installed at 84 locations in 23 countries. The company employs 30 people, with a subsidiary in the USA and a second about to be established in Australia.