When and WHY to IGNORE bone scan results

Bone Scan2 Comments


Hi, this is Dr. Renee Tucker. I’m here today to tell you about when and why you should completely ignore bone scan results. I know that sounds crazy, but, hey, I’ll tell you all about it and you can judge for yourself.

I am Dr. Renee Tucker. I’ve been an equine veterinarian for over 20 years, and I am the bestselling author of “Where does my Horse Hurt?”


Blaze Vs. the Cross-ties

Let me tell you what happened. I went to see a horse named Blaze, I’ll call her. A beautiful gray mare, great strides, really smooth, reached out lovely, and I saw here after she had had an accident. Here’s what happened. She was just standing in the cross-ties, concrete cross-ties, no mats, and she had a nylon halter on, and the cross-ties were nylon with no break-aways, and then … Yeah. You’re already picturing it right now, I totally know. That’s what I was thinking. Oh no! Yeah, she freaked out. No one to this day knows what happened, but she just flipped. Well, she didn’t flip, but she tried to flip, but she was stuck. Oh yeah, she also had steel shoes on, so she’s scrabbling all over the place. She ends up sitting down, pulling back on the cross-ties, so her right legs ended up sitting down to the right, while her other part of her body was going to the left. It was just the horror where it seems to take forever, but it was probably only a minute until a groom ran up and had a knife and was able to cut that, and so she was loose.

Phew, right? Of course they check her for cuts and bruises and swellings and stuff. She seemed fine. They gave her a couple days off. After a couple days, trotted her off. She doesn’t seem right. You know? Maybe just stiff. They tried riding her, and no, no, no. She’s just wrong. She’s stiff and she’s short-strided, and she’s awkward, and she’s uncomfortable, and it’s just jarring to ride her. They just stop, of course. They just get off. They gave her some Bute and they gave her some time off, and a couple weeks later, checked her again, and still not so good. Same funky, wrong kind of movement.


Vet Check and the First Plan

They did have the vet out, they did flexions, they did that kind of stuff, couldn’t really find anything, but thought, well, you know, muscle pull, that’s going to be a couple weeks. They gave her a couple more weeks of rest, came back out, same problem.

Then they thought, well, okay, if it’s a ligament or a tendon tear, even though they ultrasounded and couldn’t find anything, let’s try two months off. Two months in the pasture, no change whatsoever.


The Second Plan

Then, let’s see. Then they gave her more rest because, and actually that’s not a horrible idea, if you have a groin pull in a horse, it can take about six months to really start getting better. Considering what had happened during the cross-tie incident, that kind of made sense. Six months later, they tried riding her again, and no, no change whatsoever. Still funky and tight and jarry and weird, and not the horse she used to be.


The Bone Scan

At that point, the bone scan comes in. The results were quite interesting. There was lighting up areas on part of the lumbar and then both sacroiliac joints, both hips, both stifles, both hocks, perfectly symmetrical down the whole body. That is the point where I promise you, if it’s perfectly symmetrical, right to left, you can ignore it as the primary problem.  Those red, light-up spots are certainly inflammation, maybe they need some treatment, but they’re not the problem.


Blaze’s treatments

Let me keep telling you Blaze’s story so you know what I’m talking about. They did Tildren, they did IRAP, they did injections, and they did a shockwave of each and every part of that horse’s body, and gave her two more months off from rest. I’m not saying this is wrong, I’m just saying that’s what happened, and two months later, that horse was exactly the same: wrong, jerky, jarring, weird, funky, just off.


What was really wrong with Blaze

At that point is when I actually met the horse. Let me explain what happens bodywork-wise. I’ve been doing chiropractic and acupuncture for over twenty years. When the horse’s hind end went to the right, that pelvic symphysis got wonky. The pelvic symphysis is the bottom of the pelvis. If the pelvis is a big square, then that bottom middle part is the symphysis, and when she fell, it went to the right. Then her sternum, which is the front part of the chest there, that, again, should be straight, but her sternum went left. The sternum and the pelvic symphysis are the two parts of the body that really keep it balanced.  They’re the center foundations. With those going the wrong way, she had to overuse all the joints in her body to get comfortable…. I shouldn’t say comfortable, she was just so not comfortable looking.   She was trying. She was really trying, a really good horse, but she couldn’t do it.

When we realigned the sternum and the pelvic symphysis, then everything could relax and it could flow. We got the stifles and hocks and everything all lined up, and she started to flow. Then all those muscles which had tightened up because they were just wrong started to loosen up, and we got her back. We got her back to flowing and moving and beautiful. But guys, this is eight months later.

Lesson learned there, huh? I want to get that lesson out so it can help some other people. If your bone scan is perfectly symmetrical right and left, meaning it lights up exactly the same on the right side as it does on the left side, it is not the primary problem. You need to look someplace else.

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2 Comments on “When and WHY to IGNORE bone scan results”

  1. Hi there, I have a horse that just doesn’t seem right or 100% sound at the canter. Can’t put a finger on it. I have tried everything. Debating on a bone scan or throwing him out to a pasture. He’s a gorgeous 8 year old warmblood. Definitely could use any help!

    1. Hi Chantal,

      Sorry to hear of your horse frustration. As you saw from the article, a bone scan may or may not help. Many times, horses with this type of issue have their pelvic symphysis misaligned. The pelvic symphysis is the “foundation” for the entire pelvis. If that isn’t aligned, the horse cannot find a “neutral” or comfortable position.

      I recommend my book, “Reverse the Diagnosis”. While we don’t have an official diagnosis for your horse, I think you’d find it helpful. You can find it here: https://www.tuckerbiokinetic.com/rtdbook

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