Our San Diego veterinarians discusse the uses and benefits of a CT scanner in veterinary medicine.
Diagnostic imaging plays an enormous role in the diagnosis and treatment of disease in both human and veterinary medicine. The advancements made in technology and imaging over the past years have aided tremendously in helping doctors diagnose and treat various conditions that may have been proven difficult before. As in human hospitals, a CT scanner is an essential diagnostic tool that can help day-to-day.
How does a veterinary CT machine work?
Computed tomographic imaging, also known as a "CT" or "CAT scan", works by producing multiple individual images or "slices" throughout a region of interest in the body through the use of radiation (x-rays) and a computer. A standard comparison to an image produced by a CT scanner is individual slices of bread that make up a complete loaf.
The CT machine takes two-dimensional slices of your pet's anatomy and reconfigures them into a complete image that we can see. These slices can also be used to generate three-dimensional reconstructions, which are extremely useful for surgical planning. The images are then sent to the radiologist (myself) for review and interpretation.
What are the advantages of a CT scan?
The high-resolution images produced by the CT machine help us to evaluate your pet's anatomy in great detail. Details that we would otherwise not be able to see with just standard X-rays.
CT scanners provide detailed images of the body's bony and soft tissue structures. The spine, nasal cavity, inner ear, bones/joints, and chest/lungs are the most common areas of the body imaged with CT here at MVS. The CT machine can also be used to examine lymph nodes, thyroid glands, abdominal organs, the skull/brain, and vascular structures.
A CT scan can also be combined with a contrast agent given to your pet intravenously (IV), allowing us to see increased areas of blood flow in the body. This aids in the detection of cancer and areas of inflammation.
What to Expect if Your Animal Has a Veterinary CT Scan
For the CT machine to produce high-quality images, the patient being imaged must remain as still as possible during the scan. In human medicine, simply telling the patient not to move and to occasionally hold their breath is sufficient. Unfortunately, this technique is ineffective for dogs and cats, necessitating heavy sedation or general anesthesia.
Your pet's vital signs are closely monitored while under anesthesia throughout the entire CT. The CT scanner at our hospital is very efficient, and a typical CT scan only takes a short time. Following the CT, I will interpret your pet's images and produce a detailed report with findings and diagnostic recommendations for the attending clinician overseeing your pet's care.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only. San Diego Bay Animal Hospital is unable to offer CT scans at this time.