In the past 20 years, CT and MRI have become available in veterinary medicine at relatively low costs. These are often accessible with same-day imaging and board-certified radiologist interpretation in many facilities—much faster than imaging for their human counterparts! However, the availability of advanced imaging does vary.
Most of the time, imaging centers, universities and specialty hospitals work together in order to provide non-invasive, state-of-the-art imaging for veterinary patients. But imaging centers in some areas are competing with referral/specialty hospitals and universities for business.
In veterinary medicine, advanced imaging has a smaller role than in human studies because the primary imaging modalities are radiographs and ultrasound, rather than CT and MRI. This is because of the availability, cost and requirements for general anesthesia during advanced imaging. But there are times MRI and CT play an essential role. This is when the benefit of a diagnostic yield outweighs the cost and necessity for general anesthesia.
There are some clinical areas that warrant pursuit of advanced imaging in veterinary medicine: brain, nasal, spine, elbow imaging, and pre-surgical evaluation before mass removal.
For veterinary patients with head tilt, seizure disorders, ear disease and behavioral changes that may be due to tumors, congenital brain abnormalities or infectious lesions, brain imaging is recommended. Usually it’s MRI, but in some situations CT can be used and is much less expensive. CT imaging is usually reserved for older, large breed dogs that are predisposed to the development of neoplastic brain lesions.
Advanced imaging is called for with patients who have nasal cavity disorders like epistaxis and nasal discharge. Thoracic radiographs for metastatic and pre-anesthetic screening are the preferred type of imaging. Nasal radiography requires general anesthesia and a skilled technical staff.
Veterinary patients with ataxia, back pain or paraparesis are candidates for spine imaging. MRI is usually recommended for spinal imaging but CT with contrast medium can be a less expensive alternative to identify or rule out surgical spinal disorders like tumors and intervertebral disk herniations.
Advanced imaging is appropriate for immature veterinary patients with chronic lameness. It can also be used to rule out osseous trauma and identify some of the lesions that are associated with elbow dysplasia. CT is recommended, but MRI can provide similar information at an increased cost.
Pre-surgical Evaluation Before Mass Removal
If a pre-surgical evaluation of disease extent is needed, prereferral imaging will vary depending on the location of the mass. As a rule, thoracic and survey radiographs are recommended for metastatic screening and the initial evaluation of the mass lesion. However, an abdominal ultrasound might help rule out disseminated disease in cases of hepatic masses.
As a rule, CT in veterinarian medicine has been static, since the need for general anesthesia involves risk and/or artifact. However, researchers at the University of Illinois used an ultrafast 16-slice CT scanner, which allowed them to image an entire patient in just a few seconds, combined with a clear box called the VetMousetrap for use with non-anesthetized patients. The speed of the image acquisition allowed researchers to image the veterinary patient without general anesthesia and with minimal motion artifacts. This new CT imaging technique can be used in lieu of radiography and ultrasound. Also, the technique is limited to cats and small to medium dogs due to the size of the VetMousetrap.
Talk To An Expert
If you’re interested in adding medical imaging equipment to your veterinary practice, or have questions, talk to the experts at Atlantis Worldwide.
Some blogs you may have missed:
- 13 Questions to Ask Your Imaging Equipment Service Provider
- The 101 On Veterinary X-Ray Equipment
- C-Arms - The Perfect Tool for Veterinarians
- Does Your Veterinary Practice Need a MRI?
- Choosing A C-Arm For Your Veterinary Practice
Meet the author: Vikki Harmonay