Ultrasound scanners have become a common tool in Veterinary Practice. The ability to take a conscious animal and use the scanner to examine deep into the chest or abdomen has become something we almost take for granted. Whether it is being used for pregnancy diagnosis or the investigation of an illness, the ability to look at the external size and shape of an organ and also the internal structure of the tissue within an organ can be very useful.
When I first joined Donaldson’s Vets 18 years ago, we had one scanner that was moved from surgery to surgery as required. Now, we use ultrasound so often that each of the 4 surgeries has their own dedicated scanner and we also have 3 scanners that are used by our Farm and Equine Vets.
This week, we took delivery of a new state-of-the-art scanner at the Maple Street Hospital and my 3 Labradors were drafted in as Guinea Pigs as we got to grips with the different functions and controls. Fennel, our 9 month old Labrador actually fell asleep on the scanning table while one of our vets scanned her liver – scanning is not a very stressful procedure for our patients!
In addition having a very powerful image processor that produces a fantastic quality image, our new scanner has the facility for “colour flow Doppler” for scanning hearts. Colour flow Doppler uses the same technology as a Traffic Policeman’s speed camera. The speed camera sends out a beam of ultrasound and then records the speed at which the beam bounces back. The beam bounces back more quickly off a car that is moving quickly towards the Policeman and so, the camera can calculate the speed of the approaching vehicle.
With colour flow Doppler capability, blood flow either towards or away from the ultrasound scanner is measured and shows on the screen as either a red or a blue flare of colour. When scanning a normal heart, the flow of blood through the heart should be smooth and in a uniform direction. Leaking heart valves or other abnormalities within the heart can result in abnormal patters of blood flow through the heart and we can pick this up with the Doppler scan.
Veterinary medicine is constantly progressing and there is a constant process of reinvesting to make sure that we have the equipment, facilities and training to ensure that we stay at the forefront of that progress and can offer the best levels of service to our clients.