AHEAD OF 83RD SEASON, SANTA ANITA PARK DEBUTS ANIMAL-WELFARE TECHNOLOGY NEVER BEFORE USED AT ANY RACETRACK IN THE COUNTRY
PET Scanner Will Aid in Detection of Pre-Existing Conditions in Racehorses
Arcadia, CA — As Santa Anita Park prepares for its 83rd season, the racetrack today debuted animal-welfare technology that goes far and beyond anything ever seen at a horse-racing facility across the country. Installed at the on-site Nuclear Medicine Facility, the cutting-edge Longmile Positron Emission Tomography (MILE-PET) Scan machine — the first of its kind — will help support the diagnosis of pre-existing conditions in racehorses and modernize the sport of horse racing by prioritizing the health and safety of Thoroughbreds. The machine provides imaging of the fetlock (ankle) joint, the most common area for injuries to occur. In January, Santa Anita Park is expecting to install a Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), another example of cutting-edge diagnostic technology to assist with animal welfare.
While the MILE-PET scan technology has been used in human medicine for more than a decade, it is very rare for horses to undergo a PET scan. The standing MILE-PET machine allows a horse to have a PET scan on their fetlock joint without the risks of general anesthesia. The installation of this machine brings to fruition a year-long investment and research endeavor; the first MILE-PET scan on a standing horse was successfully performed in January of 2019 at UC Davis through a project led by Mathieu Spriet, DVM, in partnership with the Brain Biosciences and Longmile Veterinary Imaging Division.
“The Stronach Group is committed to doing what we can to provide horsemen with access to resources that will help them to better assess the health and fitness of horses in their care,” said Belinda Stronach, Chairman and President, The Stronach Group. “We continue to make progress with the installation of the MILE-PET scan machine at Santa Anita. This state-of-the-art technology reflects a new standard of care within Thoroughbred racing — a standard that puts the health and safety of horses and riders first.”
To increase affordable access to advanced diagnostic equipment for horseman, The Stronach Group partnered with the Dolly Green Research Foundation (DRGF) to secure the purchase of the MILE-PET scan machine. This machine is housed in the Nuclear Medicine Facility in the barn area of Santa Anita Park, and will be operated on a low-cost, non-profit basis by the Southern California Equine Foundation (SCEF). Fees related to the use of the machine will be established by the SCEF. The SCEF also operates the on-site Equine Hospital at Santa Anita.
The MILE-PET scan machine will complement existing technology already available in the Nuclear Medicine Facility which is the only nuclear medicine facility at a racetrack nationwide. The existing Nuclear Scan Technology allows veterinarians at Santa Anita to look beyond the conventional x-ray to help highlight conditions which could become problematic, assisting in the diagnosis of pre-existing conditions. This technology is particularly useful in the diagnosis of stress fractures in the shoulder, humerus and pelvis. The addition of the MILE-PET Scan will improve the ability to detect early changes in the sesamoid bones of the fetlock – the most common area for injuries to occur. Prior to the advent of this technology, the ability to diagnose pre-existing conditions in this area was limited.
“The Stronach Group is leading the way to highlight the critical role that innovative medical technology represents for the sport. This machine will aid in the detection of pre-existing conditions in a way that has never before existed in Thoroughbred horse racing,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, Chief Veterinary Officer for The Stronach Group. “By being able to detect injuries on a microscopic level, veterinarians with be better equipped with the tools needed to provide equine athletes with a higher standard of care and attention.”
The MILE-PET scan will not be the only new addition to the on-site medical technology at Santa Anita Park; in early 2020, a standing MRI machine will be installed in the Nuclear Medicine Facility. The MRI will improve the ability of veterinarians to identify changes to bone and soft tissue (tendons, ligaments) in the area around the fetlock. These technologies work in concert with one another as no single technology can identify all potential issues that can lead to an equine injury. Because of that, it is important to have different diagnostic modalities available to veterinarians and the horses they treat.
“The MILE-PET machine is the most groundbreaking development in equine imaging since standing MRI in the early 2000’s,” said Dr. Mathieu Spriet, an Associate Professor at UC Davis who has been the Principal Investigator for the project. “The development of the standing equine PET scanner will transform the diagnostic approach to pre-existing conditions for racehorses.”
Santa Anita Park will begin its 83rd racing season on December 26th, opening day.
For more on safety and health reforms please visit www.santaanita.com.
Dr. Mathieu Spriet, an Associate Professor at UC Davis demonstarates PET-Mile Scanner