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DIGITAL RADIOLOGY & ULTRASOUND
Imaging in veterinary medicine has advanced greatly since the first radiographs (x-rays) were taken of pets just decades ago. Now there is a multitude of imaging tests available to help diagnose and treat diseases in our pets.
These tests include digital radiography (x-rays), ultrasound, CT (or CAT) scans, and MRI scans. Each of these tests has its own unique advantages, and provide Dr. Kraft and Dr. Anna with different information in diagnosing health concerns with your pets. Lawrence Veterinary Hospital utilizes digital radiography full body and digital radiography dental scans and ultrasound for diagnostics and refer CT and MRI scans.
A digital radiograph, commonly called an x-ray, is a black and white two-dimensional image of the interior of your pet's body.
Radiography is the most common and readily available imaging test in veterinary practice. It is used to evaluate the size and shape of organs such as the heart and lungs, as well as to show fractures (broken bones), some foreign objects, fluid accumulations, and many more abnormalities that may aid in diagnosis. It is also the most affordable imaging test, and is most often chosen as a diagnostic tool prior to any of the other imaging options.
There is a subcategory of x-ray studies that use contrast dyes that show up on digital radiographs. The most familiar of these is the barium series, in which either a liquid or a paste containing barium is given to a patient to highlight a part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Because some objects do not show up on radiographs (things like plastic, cloth, toys, rubber, etc.), barium can help diagnose obstructions or blockages. Barium shows as bright white on radiographs, so if it reaches a certain point in the GI tract and stops abruptly, Dr. Kraft and Dr. Anna can infer that there is something blocking its progress. Sometimes we can also see a foreign object outlined by the barium trying to get around it.
Ultrasound is painless and does not require anesthesia or even sedation in most cases. For an ultrasound evaluation to be done, the pet needs to have the hair shaved from the area to be evaluated, as hair will interfere with the images.
This test is typically done after blood tests, x-rays, or a physical examination indicates a possible problem. It is useful for evaluating things like abdominal organs, eyes, and the reproductive system. It can also be used during pregnancies. There is a specific ultrasound called an echocardiogram that is used to visualize the heart and blood vessels as well as the valves of the heart.
Ultrasound can “see” some things that can’t be visualized on radiographs. For example, if the abdomen is filled with fluid, the organs can’t be distinguished on traditional x-rays because fluid and tissue have the same density. However, they appear quite different from each other on an ultrasound image, so we can see through the fluid. It is also useful, for the same reason, for seeing inside an organ such as the heart or liver.
It is common to do both x-rays and ultrasound in order to make a complete diagnosis of a pet. Lawrence Veterinary Hospital has a board-certified veterinary radiologist consultant who is experienced in reading ultrasound images and evaluating them.