At Ark Veterinary Practice we offer a range of diagnostic imaging techniques. Diagnostic imaging has been used more frequently over the past few years in veterinary medicine to aid in the diagnosis of a wide variety of conditions. The practice also offers ECG which is often used alongside diagnostic imaging to aid in the diagnosis of heart conditions.
The Ark is equipped with an ultrasound machine to aid in patient diagnosis. Ultrasound machines work by passing high frequency sound waves through the body via a probe which is placed in contact with the skin. These waves then travel through the body and if they hit a structure (such as an organ or bone) they are “bounced back” and picked up by the ultrasound probe. The ultrasound machine then transforms these echo waves and gives us a picture, displayed on the screen as a “slice” of the body. These images show softer bodily structures (such as organs) in much more detail than radiography and so ultrasonography is very useful if a particular organ is to be examined. Ultrasound is also commonly used to help gain samples to be sent to the laboratory for testing; these include the collection of urine samples and fine needle aspirate biopsies from tissues or organs. Ultrasonography is also commonly used to confirm pregnancy in the cat and dog.
Typical areas that are examined include the abdomen and the heart. An area of hair is shaved and surgical spirit is applied, followed by ultrasound gel. This preparation is needed to permit the ultrasound probe to make contact with the skin and reduce interference from “background noise”. The area is then scanned methodically and any abnormalities are noted. Images can also be saved for future comparison, for e-mail to specialists for a second opinion and so that the pet’s owner can view them when their pet is discharged. Our ultrasound machine is also equipped with colour Doppler. This special software allows us to measure and track blood flow within the body. This is especially useful in echocardiograms (an ultrasound scan of the heart) and aids in diagnosing a variety of heart conditions.
The Ark is equipped with an X-ray machine and processor housed within a dedicated X-ray room.
Radiology is routinely used to provide valuable information on internal health including that of:
- Gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines, colon).
- Respiratory tract (lungs).
- Genitourinary system (bladder, prostate).
It can be used alone or in conjunction with other diagnostic tools to provide a list of possible causes for a pet’s condition, identify the exact cause of a problem or rule out possible problems. When a pet is being radiographed, an X-ray beam passes through its body and hits a piece of radiographic film. Images on the film appear as various shades of grey and reflect the anatomy of the animal.
Bones, which absorb more X-rays, appear as white/light grey structures. Soft tissues, such as the lungs, absorb fewer X-rays and appear as dark grey/black structures. Interpretation of radiographs requires great skill on the part of the vet and is usually used in conjunction with other diagnostic tools such as blood sampling and physical examination.
Radiographs within practice are carried out under sedation or a full anaesthetic.
Our practice has its own ECG machine. ECGs (electrocardiograms) are usually carried out without the need for any sedation or anaesthetic. Patients are either left in a standing position or gently placed so they lie on their right side. Electrodes are then placed onto their skin. The machine works by detecting and amplifying the tiny electrical changes on the skin that are caused when the heart muscle “depolarises” during each heartbeat. This electrical signal is then displayed as a trace of waves and peaks on paper; once interpreted it can help give the veterinary surgeon information on the rhythm of the heart as well as any possible enlarged chambers within the heart and/or weaknesses in parts of the heart muscle.
This is another diagnostic aid along with ultrasonography and radiography and is useful in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.