X-ray, Ultrasound, and CT Scanning
Imaging can be an important part of diagnosing what is, or is not, wrong with your pet. Ultrasound and x-rays are very different types of imaging, and "see" different things.
This image shows many puppies inside a pregnant dog. Look closely to see tiny skeletons within the abdomen!
X-ray is great for imaging bone, of course, but is also good at imaging 2-dimensions of organs and other "soft tissue" also, as well as through air-filled structures such as lungs and the intestinal tract.
X-ray is an excellent way to image some foreign materials inside the body such as bullets, stones, metal, and some other materials.
For soft items such as fabrics, wood, leather and plastics we can use barium, a special material that is swallowed, to outline these foreign materials in the intestinal tract.
It's easy to see this dog's broken foot bones, and we use x-ray for many more things besides bones.
Alpine utilizes the best-quality modern imaging equipment with high-resolution digital x-ray and ultrasound machines. Digital x-ray is far more detailed than old technology using film that has to be developed. New digital x-ray also uses lower radiation that is safer for your pet and our staff at Alpine Animal Clinic. And, we can give you all of your pets images on a USB thumb drive we make for you to keep for viewing at home and for your pet's permanent medical record.
This dog ingested a hex nut made of metal. The photo (inset) shows the nut after removal by surgery.
Digital x-ray allows very precise measurements for complicated orthopedic surgery, such as for TPLO cruciate repair. And, your pet's x-rays are easily taken with you for future reference on a USB drive we make for you.
X-rays of this dog were quite the surprise! She came in for recurrent back pain and x-rays revealed two rubber bullet pellets, many tiny birdshot bullets (yellow arrows), and several BB-gun shots scattered all over her body! Her back pain stemmed from a BB lodged in her mid-spine (see red arrows). X-ray was the most efficient, cost-effective imaging in her case.
Ultrasound Color Doppler helps determine blood flow and helps categorize masses as possible malignancy versus benign, and if surgical correction is likely or higher-risk. All of this is usually done without anesthesia or even sedation.
The 2-dimensions X-rays give you, means you can see size and shape of things but not the full 3-dimensions of any particular structure. Ultrasound also allows visualization of that 3rd dimension of soft tissues, such as liver, kidneys, urinary bladder, or spleen, but does not image air-filled structures much at all. It is excellent for imaging cancerous masses, for instance, and can use specialized functions, such as doppler, to evaluate blood flow to an area and detail how masses are growing. This can be very useful to decide if surgery could be helpful, or if a growth is likely to be cancerous or not, or if a mass has spread to other organs.
Ultrasound is also helpful in obtaining a small biopsy sample of something difficult to reach, helping ensure the tissue you are sampling is in fact the tissue you are targeting.
Shown to the left is a patient is comfortable in a padded bed while Dr. Heidi Wampler images his liver, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach, intestinal walls, kidneys, adrenal glands, internal lymph nodes, urinary bladder, and prostate.
Ultrasound is painless and often does not require sedation, giving a great deal of information quickly, painlessly and without risk of surgery or anesthesia.
CT Scanning (Computed Axial Tomography)
A CT scan uses X rays to construct a picture of the internal structures, and can image the entire body. It allows us to see inside the body, or inside the skull in a way that regular X rays just can't do. We can image tumors in the liver, for instance, or look inside the skull to tell us if there is a tumor or some other structural problem causing seizures or other neurologic symptoms.
Using a CT scan, we are able to put together a 3-D reconstruction. It's as though we are able to take slices through the body, like slicing through a loaf of bread, and then looking at what is inside of the loaf by taking out the slice and examining it. CT scans are also very helpful in looking for ruptured discs in the back, and for getting a better picture of what is going on in case of complicated bone fractures.