State-Of-The-Art Facilities and Renovations Enhance Equine Orthopaedic Research at Colorado State University

New facilities and state-of-the-art equipment at Colorado State University’s Orthopaedic Research Center is helping to advance research in osteoarthritis and cartilage repair for the benefit of horses and humans alike. The center now includes the renovated Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, with the first equine-dedicated high-field Magnetic Resonance Imaging center in the United States, and the Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, which includes a state-of-the-art surgical suite.  

MRI, which is the highest standard for producing images of human joints and the best technique for non-invasively assessing a joint, will concentrate on both clinical research and cases with projects focusing on osteoarthritis and cartilage repair.  

"With our new facilities and equipment, we can diagnose injuries we could never diagnose before," said Dr. Natasha Werpy, an assistant professor in the department of Clinical Sciences at Colorado State who is running the MRI center. "We plan on sharing the results of our research to enhance the diagnosis of injury and develop improved treatment."

Using the MRI, researchers at the university can more specifically diagnose injuries and illness. For example, the MRI allows veterinarians to see fluid in bone, which is painful for horses, and see soft tissues, which is not possible with x-rays. They also can make diagnoses using multi-planner imaging, which displays an image in different angles, and reformat images, which produce two images in different angles taken from a single image.

"Using both basic research and equine clinical patient studies, we will be able to discover new ways to advance early diagnosis of bone and joint disease, better methods of treatment and a better understanding of how exercise-induced traumatic disease occurs," said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, director of the Orthopaedic Research Center. "The focus of our program is preventing or minimizing osteoarthritis in horses, and our MRI capabilities will greatly facilitate this goal."

Horses are admitted to the Veterinary Medical Center at Colorado State. Patients must first have diagnostic tests completed at the center and, once the horse is thoroughly examined, an MRI will be performed.

In 2003, the Walton Family Foundation gave a $2.5 million gift to Colorado State to build the new facilities, support equine reproduction, orthopedic research and fund several positions during the duration of the five-year grant. Additionally, Virginia and Kim Atkinson purchased an MRI for the new facilities.

In addition to the renovated Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, the Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Center was built to house state-of-the-art surgery facilities with induction and recovery room facilities, a visitor-reception center, a conference room with a view into the surgery room, administrative offices, a new high-speed treadmill and 32 deluxe horse stalls with automatic temperature control, pest management systems and a card-controlled security system.

Over the past 17 years, research that has been done by the orthopaedic team at Colorado State has benefited horses and humans in advancing orthopaedic treatments. The Orthopaedic Research Center, known for its worldwide equine joint problem, prevention and hearing research, is dedicated to conducting research in diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal problems occurring in equines and humans.

To learn more about the Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State, call (970) 297-4165 or, visit the Web at