The first MRI scanner for horses in Wallonia available for use by the Veterinary Clinic of the University of Liege.

The equine MRI scanner is the result of an overall investment of 840,000 Euro agreed as equity by ULg, through the equine cluster of the Veterinary Clinic of the university. It is unique in Wallonia and the first scanner of its kind in Belgium’s university sector. The MRI is up and running and ready to receive its first “patients” on the site of the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of ULg in Sart Tilman.

Veterinary surgeons are the main prescribers of MRI scans and may refer clinical cases from the Veterinary Clinic of the University of Liege. For this reason, the tool and various types of scans made possible by this state-of-the-art imaging technology were presented on 18 September at the inauguration of the equine MRI of ULg.

What pathologies and diagnoses will the MRI be used for ?

IRM EquinThe equine MRI allows for detailed examination of the osteo-articulary system, and complements methods already in use such as tachograph, radiography and scanning. It is often prescribed for examinations of the foot because of the high frequency of soft tissue pathologies in this region of the skeleton of the horse. However, it is also readily used for examinations of the pastern, the ball and region where the suspensory ligament inserts into the ball.

An MRI scan may also be recommended for a full assessment of a lesion in the case of navicular syndrome, for diagnosing soft tissue lesions (tendons and ligaments) in parts of the body that are hard to examine by an echography. It is also used to detect early bone lesions, to examine pervasive foot injuries, and whenever a satisfactory diagnosis has not been reached through the combined use of radiography and ecography.

Is this MRI scanner only for horses ?

The machine is suitable for large animals. However, some tests such as a brain scan on small animals (dogs, cats, etc.) are technically possible and may be done while awaiting the installation of an additional MRI scanner, adapted for use with small animals, in the new university veterinary clinic.

A machine supporting regenerative medical research

The acquisition of the MRI scanner is part of the development of a research project that addresses comparative regenerative biology in the Veterinary Medicine Faculty. There are about thirty researchers involved in this research axe of FARAH (Fundamental and Applied Research on  Animals & Health, an integrated research centre of the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of ULg) and this research is being carried out in collaboration with the researchers of the GIGA-ULg and the CHU of Liège.

The aim is to develop functional live tissues that would allow for the replacement of damaged tissues or organs. The regeneration may be done in situ by the stimulation of injured organs or in the laboratory. Many of the procedures involve the use of stem cells, growth factors and/or templates. Regenerative medicine covers many pathologies and opens the door for real therapeutic opportunities.


As regards the locomotive system of horses, the researchers are focusing on 3 lines of research:

  • The production of multi-potential stem cells or in a differentiation phase, the growth factors and/or templates as well as the cryopreservation of stem cells.

  • The functional aspect on animal models or on clinical cases bringing together the motion analysis laboratories of ULg and the biomechanical unit of  Mont-le-Soie (province of Luxembourg).

  • The lesion aspect by developing the most efficient imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance and, when using animal models, optical and electron microscopes.

The use of regenerative medicine is entering the clinical phase in equine medicine. The MRI scanner may also supply some answers in regard to a better definition of the quality of regenerated tissue, through a simple longitudinal scan.

Liège : the ideal location!

Benelux has 700,000 horses, 350,000 within a radius of 200 km of Liège of which 150,000 are in Wallonia.

The MRI scans may be used with all types of horses:  race horses (trot and gallop) - 9% of the population -, sports horses for dressage, steeple chase, endurance and full competition – 29% -, leisure horses - 42% - and work horses (draft horses) and breeding  (brood mares and colts) – 20%.

How many horses does the Veterinary Clinic of ULg treat ?

The equine section of the Veterinary Clinic of the University of Liege treats about 1,300 horses a year. Almost 300 horses are referred to the equine section every year for pathologies of the musculoskeletal system. Pathologies of the musculoskeletal system affect 20% of race and sports horses every year. The aim is to have  240 clinical cases a year analysed using the MRI scanner within 3 to 5 years. 

Investments in the equine MRI scanner (in €, inc. VAT)


Acquisition of the equine MRI scanner 594.594
Building module 137.940
Installation, transportation and training 11.616
Fitting and networks 96.800
Total 840.950

Equity financed.

Cost of an equine MRI scan

MRI scan costs 880 Euros. Additional expenses such as for sedation must be added to that. The full cost of an MRI scan would therefore be between 950 and 990 Euros, depending on the weight of the horse and how the scan goes.

More information on the web site of the equine Section of Veterinary Clinic of ULg (equine Section)