student profile: Dr Gillian Burns


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Thesis work

Thesis title: An Evidence-Based Study to Assess Thoracolumbar Pain in the Horse using Clinical Examination, Algometry and Ultrasonography.

Supervisors: Andrew DART , Leo JEFFCOTT

Thesis abstract:

Loss of performance is one of the most significant consequences of a painful back in the horse. For many years, veterinary examination of the horse’s back has been limited to manual palpation with diagnosis confirmed empirically by response to treatment. Today, due to advances in diagnostic imaging, there are multiple methods for evaluating the pathology of the horse’s thoracolumbar spine. Despite this progress, definitive diagnosis can still be problematic. There is still a lack of objectivity in understanding the implications of the pathology detected and its effect on the horse. It is difficult to determine the degree of pain experienced by individual horses and how that interferes with their performance and welfare.
The aim of this research is to undertake an objective evidence-based study to evaluate horses with potential back pain. The project will use three clinical parameters to obtain an overall ‘back score’ for each horse. A total of ~ 200 working horses will be used to complete the project. Horses without back pain will be used as controls.

The pressure algometer has been used in human medicine to determine pressure-pain thresholds in the muscles of the back. It has also been shown to be effective in measuring similar thresholds in the horse. In combination with a careful clinical examination and ultrasonography of the multifidous muscle, the algometer will be evaluated as a tool that may be useful in general veterinary practice.

Note: This profile is for a student at the University of Sydney. Views presented here are not necessarily those of the University.