May be wondering why veterinarian has recommended abdominal ultrasounds for your pet. The following article will explain how an ultrasound is used in veterinary medicine and when it is appropriate.
Ultrasound machines send sound waves into the body that are reflected back to a probe and interpreted by a computer, much like the echo that you hear when you yell out in a canyon. The sound waves bounce back at different strengths depending on the density of the tissue encountered. The computer can then present an image on the monitor that can be analyzed for abnormalities.
The ultrasound is non-invasive, meaning it doesn’t enter the body, and is pain free. The ultrasound is best on tissue or organs that are fluid filled. The liver, gallbladder, kidneys, adrenal glands, spleen, urinary bladder, pancreas, lymph nodes and blood vessels of the abdomen can readily imaged. The stomach wall and intestinal walls can also be evaluated but their internal contents cannot be easily identified. Radiographs (X-rays) are also used to evaluate the abdomen but they are very limited in the amount of diagnostic information they provide when compared to ultrasound. Sometimes both tests will be recommended to gather the most information.
Often times ultrasounds will be recommended to further diagnose a disease process. In most cases we require that patients are sedated for their ultrasound so that they will be still for the images needed. Ultrasound results can take 24-48 hours to come back because we send our out for a radiology specialist to review.
Needless to say, ultrasound has become a very important part of keeping our pets healthy! With the development of newer equipment and new techniques used to perform it, more detailed information can be obtained and we will see even more success with the unsung hero in finding previously hidden diseases.