A digital x-ray, with thumbnails of additional angles is displayed onscreen for a veterinarian to analyze.

A digital x-ray, with thumbnails of additional angles is displayed onscreen for a veterinarian to analyze.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Hosts Digital X-Ray Technology Demonstration

Keeneland is exploring digital X-ray technology with the idea of improving the repository for its sales. But there probably won't be any major changes this year, according to Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell.

"It all depends on how soon our consignors and local veterinarians embrace it (digital technology)," he said. "I don't see anything happening in 2002. It will be 2003, if not 2004.. We've been told that people in the medical field are slowly getting away from 'all film' X-rays, and we expect the veterinary firms to follow suit."

On Wednesday, Keeneland hosted a demonstration of digital x-ray technologies in its sale pavilion near Lexington. The participating companies were US Inspection Services and DarkHorse Medical Ventures. Keeneland consignors and veterinarians from a number of different states, including Kentucky, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, and Texas were invited to attend. The auction company also conducted a similar event in 2001.

"Within five to seven years, there will be no 'hard copy' X-Ray film," said Pomeroy Smith III, an executive with DarkHorse Medical Ventures of Raleigh, N.C.

DarkHorse collects, organizes, conveys, and archives digital images. It services would allow veterinarians to view X-rays taken of sale horses outside the repository on their own computers. Smith said his company could make the security for the digital images "as loose or as secure as you want it to be."

Currently, DarkHorse's main clients are small and large animal veterinarians. The company provides a software platform to its clients for free. The clients can then send digital images to veterinary specialists in DarkHorse's network for evaluation. Clients are charged a per-case fee that usually averages $40. Smith said it is no problem to add a particular specialist that a client uses to its network.

US Inspection Services of Dayton, Ohio, distributes the Equine-X-100, a small, mobile digital X-ray system for the horse industry that was developed by Fujifilm. Veterinarians use special phosphorous plates in their X-Ray machines instead of film. The Equine-X-100 then processes these plates into digital images. Ed Graham, an owner of US Inspection Services, said his company could send a truck with the Equine-X-100 to a farm where a veterinarian is working. The veterinarian could shoot his X-rays and have the plates processed on site. After viewing the digital images, the veterinarian could reshoot the X-rays if needed. The images then would be burned to a CD-ROM and given to the vet. The Equine-X-100 sells for approximately $250,000 he said.