Ultrasound allows diagnostic tests to be performed with the aid of safe sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the animal’s internal organs (or a mass), and are decoded into an image on the monitor. This is a powerful and versatile technique in which a skilled ultrasonographer can see, measure, and assess the health of many internal organs. In many cases, it can preclude the need for major surgery.
If a tumor is suspected, often its presence can be confirmed, its tissue biopsied, and a fairly accurate assessment can be made as to whether or not the tumor is operable. This assists the veterinary surgeon in planning and preparing for the surgery. Ultrasound is a rewarding technique to evaluate the liver, spleen, adrenal glands, pancreas, kidneys, prostate, bladder, and uterus. It is not, however, the primary tool used in disease of the stomach or intestines.
Preparation for the Technique: The ultrasound examination itself is virtually risk free in most cases. It can usually be done without anesthesia or sedation and requires about twenty to thirty minutes to complete. A review of your pet’s medical records, tests, and a physical examination will precede the ultrasound. Patients are fasted at least 12 hours prior to the ultrasound to ensure a proper view of each organ system. Depending on the type of ultrasound, your pet's ultrasound may be completed while you wait, or your pet may be admitted to our hospital for a few hours. If a biopsy is needed, sedation and/or anesthesia (brief) may be required. Biopsies can be completed with ultrasound guided instruments. The tissues are sent by overnight courier to board certified pathologists and the results are usually received in three to five business days.
Echocardiography is specialized ultrasound of the heart. The heart’s action and functions can be studied in detail with an echocardiogram. Several sets of measurements can be made which aid in the determination of type and severity of an animal’s heart dysfunction. This information aids veterinarians in prescribing medications that can alleviate signs and symptoms of heart disease. It can also be used as a monitoring technique. Generally, no anesthesia is required, and the echocardiogram is completed during your office visit. Additional information (a data base) may consist of chest x-rays, an electrocardiogram, and analysis of any fluid present in the chest cavity. Patients are often referred because of known or suspected heart disease, fluid around the heart or in the chest cavity, evaluation of heart murmurs, and suspected chest or heart tumors.
Ultrasound is a safe technique to determine if an animal is pregnant. It can be used as early as 21 days after the last breeding date. An estimation can often be given as to the number of embryos present. Ultrasound can also be used to visualize the reproductive organs which include the uterus and ovaries in the female, and the prostate/testes in the male animal. This is generally a short, out-patient visit.