The use of Ultrasound in small animal veterinary medicine has grown rapidly in Village Vet practice in the past 5 years. This has allowed early diagnosis and better management of diseases which previously went undetected for months or years.
What is Ultrasound?
An ultrasound examination is an imaging technique in which deep structures of the body can be visualised by recording echoes of ultrasonic waves which are directed into the tissues. , ultrasound waves are considered to be entirely safe.
What is the difference between ultrasound and other types of scan?
Because you get a moving image with ultrasound – as opposed to a static one that you get with an x-ray – you can see precisely how the body is functioning in a non-invasive way.
We can check the size, structure and appearance of internal organs to see how each one is working in action.
Which parts of the body do you use ultrasound for?
With the heart, we can use it to watch how it beats, look at its size and see if there is an enlargement. With the intestines, we can assess if muscles are contracting properly as part of the body’s mechanisms for processing food. It is ideal for getting a close look at small organs (kidneys, liver and spleen) and to check for foreign structures in the chest. Images can be frozen and then printed from the computer to provide a positive record of the examination.
Do you choose to use either ultrasound or x-ray?
No, it depends on the condition or what we are trying to find out. When it is appropriate, we may use it as the first line of investigation, such as with a urinary tract problem. Ultrasound may be used in conjunction with plain radiography or CT to give a full picture of what might be wrong.
What are the benefits to a pet?
There may be no need for sedation or anaesthetic, Importantly, it is well tolerated by pets, there is no pain, nor is there any exposure to x-rays. One of the greatest benefits is that it can help us identify problems, such as tumours, which one might not see on x-ray.
Does the technique have any drawbacks?
Ultrasound examinations are of little value in the examination of organs that contain air. Ultrasound waves will not pass through air and therefore it can be of more limited use to examine the lungs where CT would often be recommended.
Do you need to be specially trained to use ultrasound?
Yes, the machine is totally operator dependent. Many of our general practitioners who perform ultrasound have many years of additional training and expertise in this field and in addition to this a Specialist diagnostic imager is available at London Vet Specialists should this be required.
Is the technique affordable?
Ultrasound has become more affordable of late. It is proving its value, particularly in respect of cases such as pregnancy diagnosis, evaluation of the size and normality of internal organs, evaluation of heart function, blood flow and examination of structures within the eye, which make its cost very well worthwhile.
Please contact your local Village Vet practice for more information.