Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lameness Locator

Two decades ago, Dr. Kevin Keegan at the University of Missouri wondered how good subjective lameness detection was. He gathered together a group of experienced equine veterinarians and had them evaluate the same group of horses for lameness. He discovered that they disagreed a lot. A whole lot - 75% of the time.

The vets all knew what to look for. With a sound horse performing a trot, the movement of the left half of the body mirrors exactly that of the right. If it doesn’t, something is amiss. But when lameness is mild, the human eye isn’t fast enough to register the subtle asymmetry, much less pinpoint the limb involved or the internal structures of the limb that are responsible for the pain.

Determined to find a way around the limitations of the human eye and brain, Dr. Keegan began experimenting with treadmills, markers, and high-speed cameras, collecting any and all data he could with no clear idea of how he might use it. Eventually, with the assistance of top-flight electronics engineers at Mizzou and in Japan, he arrived at the system he now calls the Lameness Locator.

It is a far cry from those early treadmills and cameras. For one thing, you can fit the entire system in a briefcase and take it directly to the horse. Physical components include matchbox-sized sensors mounted on the horse (two accelerometers and one gyroscope) and a tablet PC receiving wireless transmissions from the sensors and doing the motion analysis. Sophisticated custom software ties it all together and produces graphic reports. Watch the show here and you can see it at work.

I’m a bit of a technology geek but I still find that many new gadgets are solutions in search of problems. This is one case where the cart did not get in front of the horse. A real problem was solved with really cool technology. Now in its final stage of testing, the Lameness Locator should be in widespread use in the years to come.



Chief Little Pine said...

This is something that has been needed for many years. I am so tired of so many massage specialists and such utilizing the art of optical illusion and persuasion to sell their arts to amateurs (a lot of which are really also not amateurs at all...) I would be very interested in the marketing of this product. I would love to be in sales and marketing because we have needed this product and I believe in an objective analysis!
Can I get more info on this product? Or could the vet please contact me?

benchmark said...

I had this device used on my horse yesterday. What an amazing evaluation! It instills a great deal of confidence in the diagnosis knowing that you can refer to objective data to back up what your vet is seeing. I wouldn't want to do a lameness eval any other way. Well worth the time and money it cost me.