Dr. Erik Bergman: “Diagnostics in relation to the clinical findings is like solving a puzzle – and I like puzzles”

Dr. Erik Bergman, a passionate Dutch equine veterinarian, is highly regarded for his expertise in diagnostics. He thoroughly enjoys the process of unravelling complex diagnostic challenges. Driven by his fascination with understanding and solving these puzzles, he has found particular interest in gait analysis. According to Dr. Bergman, gait analysis serves as a valuable tool in accurately diagnosing and addressing equine conditions, allowing for more effective treatment strategies.

Dr. Bergman is the co-founder of the Sporthorse Medical Diagnostic Centre (SMDC), an orthopaedic center with a multidisciplinary approach (collaborations between orthopedic specialists, certified equine physiotherapists, certified farriers and dental specialists). At the SMDC, he is one of the qualified equine orthopedic specialist, being Diplomate ECVSMR, ECAR, Associate ECVDI and ISELP certified. 

During our conversation at the recent EGAS course on quantitative gait analysis held in Belgium, Dr. Erik Bergman emphasized the significance of continuous education and learning. 

Sharing knowledge and experiences, particularly with younger veterinarians is important. Generosity in terms of knowledge and an openness to new methods act as catalysts for progress in the field, he comments.

While Dr. Bergman is already an experienced equine diagnostics expert, he constantly seeks to refine his approach and expand his knowledge. This drive explains his keen interest in gait analysis, which he considers an efficient and novel diagnostic tool. 

The more measurements and documentation we have, the better we can understand horses, and gait analysis allows us to achieve just that. 

Dr. Bergman emphasizes that diagnostics form the foundation of daily operations at the SMDC, as accurate diagnoses are pivotal in achieving optimal results. Gait analysis plays a crucial role in this process, as it helps define the clinical relevance of the findings.

When asked about the key elements for making accurate diagnoses, Dr. Bergman underscores the importance of clinical experience and an understanding of biomechanics. Additionally, he emphasizes the significance of documentation and tracking progress over time.

Imaging and performance evaluation also provide vital information. 

According to Dr. Bergman, incorporating advanced imaging techniques such as standing dual energy CT, MRI, and Scintigraphy, along with comprehensive documentation, greatly enhances the capabilities of veterinarians, leading to their growth as skilled clinicians through practical experience.

He is convinced that gait analysis will follow a similar path, offering valuable insights into the horse's biomechanics and movement patterns. In his opinion, gait analysis is a tool that complements the human eye and intelligence in evaluating information. 

Looking at the horse is crucial, particularly considering that recent studies showed that over 70% of horses exhibit asymmetry. Interpreting what is observed requires knowledge and expertise. However, gait analysis undoubtedly enhances the skills of clinicians and contributes to better outcomes. In practical terms, the shift from storing videos on a hard disk to the Sleip app has streamlined the process of documentation at SMDC.

Dr. Bergman and the SMDC team conduct numerous pre-purchase exams (PPEs) weekly for clients located on the other side of the Atlantic. Documentation by Sleip proves invaluable in facilitating these transactions.

During these PPEs, we always work with the ‘four eyes-principle’ to analyze the information, ensuring a double-check of observations and assessments. Our commitment to quality and transparency drives this approach. 

According to Erik Bergman, increased transparency plays a vital role in promoting horse welfare. To achieve transparency, it is essential to demonstrate and measure our actions objectively. In an industry often driven by subjective opinions, relying on factual evidence becomes paramount.

Objective gait analysis, facilitated by Sleip, has revolutionized the way equine orthopedic clinicians operate, allowing them to perceive beyond what is visible to the naked eye, affirms Dr. Bergman. 


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