Diagnostic Imaging for Pets
Diagnostic imaging is the bedrock to any veterinary practice, allowing specialists to diagnose your pets’ diseases, plan treatments and guide treatment procedures. At VRH we are fortunate to have some of the most advanced imaging equipment in Australian private practice. This allows our specialists to offer the highest standard of care for your loved pet.
VRH is the only private practice in Melbourne that operates a 1.5T MRI and CT on site. Complementing our other imaging modalities of ultrasound, general X-ray and fluoroscopy, to provide a wide range of diagnostic examinations.
Our specialist veterinarians have the unique ability to safely perform advanced imaging studies and surgery under the same anaesthetic with the onsite support of our intensive care specialist. It also allows complex cases to undergo multimodal imaging, where additional CT assessment, interventional procedures or image-guided sampling can be performed.
Another unique benefit VRH has over other private veterinary hospitals in Melbourne, is that our MRI and CT are operated by two human trained imaging technicians. Having professionally trained radiographers brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the veterinary imaging world. Providing studies that are on par with a human medical facility.
One of the biggest assets in VRH diagnostic imaging, is the use of both on-site and off-site support by specialist-trained and board-certified radiologists. This provides essential and rapid specialist interpretation of the imaging studies performed. It also provides unique diagnostic skill to the practice, such as on-sight ultrasounds and imaging-guided procedures like tissue biopsies or functional studies.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radiofrequencies to acquire high-resolution cross-sectional images of the body. There is no ionising radiation involved with MRI studies and it is a non-invasive imaging modality, reducing the potential complications that may occur with traditional myelography. MRI is useful in the diagnosis of acute and chronic spinal pathology, brain lesion and musculoskeletal disease as opposed to the traditional imaging methods as it provides superior soft tissue definition of these regions that CT or X-rays do not permit.
Our examinations are comparable to those you would find in the human world, only all our patients require general anaesthetic to remain still for the scan. Due to the complex nature of MRI, these studies typically take longer than a CT. At VRH we have support from both specialist anaesthetists and a full-time anaesthetic nurse, dedicated to managing the anaesthesia and safety of your pet.
Most of our MRI cases are neurological studies, and include assessing our patients for causes of seizures, changes in mentation, spinal pain, nerve deficits and paralysis. However, we also scan for musculoskeletal diseases in the shoulders (like biceps tendons or medial glenohumeral ligament instability), stifle (like meniscal damage) and elbows.
Computed Tomography (CT)
Computed tomography (CT) is also called CAT scan, is a non-invasive diagnostic imaging procedure that allows detailed imaging of all parts of the body. CT uses ionising radiation (x-rays) to create high-resolution cross-sectional images of the body, showing detailed information not seen on conventional x-rays. CT allows us to visualise diseases not seen on ultrasound and far more sensitive for masses than x-rays. 3D reformatting capabilities of CT allow surgical planning, 3D templating and creation of patient specific surgical implants and drill-guides. Contrast (dye) is typically used to provide better differentiation of tissues and structures in the body.
Due to its fast nature we can images areas such as the head, neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis in a minute. This is useful with trauma cases as CT provides superior bony detail compared to other imaging modalities and can provide detailed information on complex fracture. It guides surgeons what areas to focus on rather than having to have exploratory surgery. CT is an excellent tool for localisation of lesions, especially in the nose, abdomen and thorax that can then be sampled under CT or ultrasound guidance.
Fluoroscopy allows us to view and acquire real time images using x-rays during interventional and surgical procedures. In surgery, fluoroscopy allows our surgeons to place and assess surgical implants in real time, using minimally invasive approaches, and not having to revise the surgery after x-rays are taken. Fluoroscopy also allows us to assess motility and function of organs such as the trachea for collapse, or the oesophagus for swallowing function. Fluoroscopy is also used to perform minimally invasive procedures, such as placing stents or assessing patency of organs, such as the ureters. Thus, fluoroscopy compliments both our surgical and medicine departments.
X-ray will always be a great imaging tool, which is readily available and cost effective. It can diagnose gross pathology, acute injury, follow up assessment and to monitor for changes. X-rays are the main imaging modality used by all our departments, and is performed by our well-trained veterinarians, nurse-technicians and supported by radiographer team.
Ultrasound is an excellent, painless and safe diagnostic imaging modality. It can be done without general anaesthetic, but uses sedation to keep your pet calm whilst on the ultrasound table or during sampling. Ultrasound images are obtained by using sound waves transmitted through and reflected by the organs of the body. Ultrasound allows us to assess the organs of the abdomen, thoracic wall, eyes, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. At VRH we can also perform basic echocardiography, from which we can diagnosis most structural diseases of the heart and then correspond with a cardiologist for further diagnosis and treatment.
Our ultrasounds are performed by specialist-trained ultrasonographer. The ultrasound study usually takes 45minutes, where a scan can be performed, and sampling done with direct communication with of your treating medicine, emergency and critical care, or surgical specialist.
We provide a comprehensive clinical neurology and neurosurgery service. We have access to advanced imaging capabilities (on-site 1.5T MRI and CT scanner), surgical facilities, electrodiagnostics, (EMG and NCV) and hearing testing (BAER). Dr Long has extensive experience in performing brain and spinal surgery, including ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement, brain tumour removal, and decompressive spinal cord surgery. Our neurology services include:
- Advanced Diagnostic Imaging – diagnosing neurological disease requires high quality diagnostic imaging. We have access to a 1.5 Tesla MRI unit which supplies us with excellent images of brain and spinal cord conditions. We also have an on-site 32 slice CT scanner in addition to world class fluoroscopy and ultrasound capabilities.
- Brain and Spinal Surgery – Dr Long has extensive experience in all forms of spinal surgery with a particular interest in decompressive techniques for intervertebral disc disease, ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgery for hydrocephalus, and craniotomies (for anything from brain tumours, to abscesses, to brain biopsy). Dr Long is recognised for his research into canine brain cancer, which he studied extensively as part of his PhD in Glasgow.
- Peripheral nerve disorders – we have electrodiagnostic facilities for the evaluation of conditions affecting nerves, muscle and neuromuscular junctions. We routinely perform EMG, nerve conduction studies and repetitive nerve stimulation, along with other tests important for diagnosing diseases which cause neuromuscular weakness in dogs and cats.
- Deafness testing – our state-of-the-art facilities allow us to perform BAER (brain stem auditory-evoked responses), the only objective way of testing for deafness.
The emergency and critical care service is staffed with both specialist and non-specialist veterinarians with experience in dealing with pets with severe life-threatening illnesses.
Our patients benefit from our emergency team’s ability to provide rapid, effective and highest quality of care and treatment, by utilising our sophisticated diagnostic and monitoring technology and support including but not limited to:
- In house laboratory testing
- Continuous invasive and non-invasive blood pressure monitoring
- Temperature and humidity-controlled oxygen therapy
- Mechanical ventilator therapy
- Continuous ECG monitoring
- Central venous pressure placement and monitoring
- Advanced pain management
- Blood gas, oximetry and electrolyte monitoring
- Pulse oximetry
- End tidal CO2 monitoring
- Blood transfusion capability
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Point of care ultrasound
- Digital radiography
We deal with a whole range of problems including accidental poisonings, snake bite, tick bite, accidents, injuries, trauma, bloats, seizures, anaphylaxis, vomiting, diarrhoea, complications from chronic disease, pain, collapse, paralysis and coma.
The emergency service operates on a triage basis. When you first come into the hospital, your pet will be evaluated to determine how severe the problem is. If your pet has a severe life-threatening illness, he/she will not be made to wait. A stat form will be provided to give us permission to treat him/her immediately. The veterinarian will discuss further treatment and diagnostic required once your pet have been stabilised.
Cardiac arrest can happen in pets with severe life-threatening illnesses. Prompt CPR using a well research guideline and technique has been shown to improve outcome. All members of our team are certified RECOVER (Internationally recognised veterinary CPR guideline) practitioners and our Criticalists are RECOVER instructors.
Many cases presented for emergency consultations can be treated as outpatients. However depending on the severity and complexity, cases that are admitted to the emergency service can be discharged home, to the regular veterinarian or referred to another specialist after discussion with the owner and veterinarian.
Cases are discussed at hospital rounds and get feedback from or reassessed by other specialists. Each patient is not getting one specialist weighing in on the case, they are getting the whole team approach. It is not uncommon for our critical cases to be co-managed by 2-3 different specialists.
Our specialist criticalists are available for advice on cases for both the emergency veterinarians and local veterinarians. The critical care service accepts internal and external referrals.