Review by Dr Katharina Flatz (Diagnostic Imaging Specialist)
A CT scan for pets can be performed at SASH hospitals.
CT scans, short for computer tomography (sometimes referred to as a CAT scan) is a form of advanced diagnostic imaging. Just like with humans, CT scans for pets are extremely valuable in diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions. A CT scan, in some ways, is similar to X-rays. However, it is able to produce 3D images instead of 2D, by taking multiple images (or slices) and piecing them together with computer software. Unlike X-rays, which provides a flat view of inside the body, CT images do not superimpose organs and other structures inside the body, so a clearer assessment can be made. They can also be used to see cross sections of patients, again, not possible with X-ray.
A CT scan for pets is useful for a number of different conditions including, but not limited to:
- Physical trauma or injury
- Various cancers and tumours (as well as staging)
- Vascular diseases
- Planning and guiding other procedures, such as surgery and radiation therapy
What makes a CT scan for pets at SASH special?
Unlike human patients, you cannot simply tell a pet to remain perfectly still while a CT is being operated. Even slight movements reduce image quality by producing distortions. For this reason, they usually need to undergo sedation or general anaesthesia. Anaesthesia carries certain risks, especially for patients with complicated medical conditions. SASH has three CT scanners on-site, one of which is the GE Revolution EVO, a machine capable of taking 128 slices per rotation. This cutting edge machine is capable of scanning large areas of an animal in a much shorter time compared to other machines. This is beneficial, as it means less time for the animal to be under sedation or anaesthesia.
SASH also has a team of Specialist Anaesthetists, who are veterinarians trained specifically to oversee anaesthesia. Having an in-house team of Anaesthetists will significantly reduce the risk of anaesthesia, especially when combined with the speed of the latest CT scanners. In the unlikely event of a serious complication arising from any procedure, SASH has a dedicated Critical Care unit (ICU) with 24/7 veterinary monitoring, and a team of Critical Care Specialists.
Acquiring the CT image is also a complicated process which is best overseen by a Diagnostic Imaging Specialist (Radiologist). These veterinarians specialise in acquiring and interpreting diagnostic imaging, such as CT scans. SASH is fortunate to have an in-house team of Diagnostic Imaging Specialists who will help ensure that the image is taken in the best possible way and that it is interpreted immediately and correctly, without the need to send images elsewhere for reporting. This helps to ensure a fast and accurate diagnose, both of which are especially important for serious and complex conditions.
Having in-house Diagnostic Imaging Specialists also means that, in some cases, a pet can be anaesthetised, a CT scan performed and interpreted on the spot, then the animal can be taken immediately into a procedure or surgery while still under the same anaesthetic, without the need to wake them and re-anaesthetise later.
How much does a CT scan for pets cost?
The cost of any procedure, including a CT scan for pets, can differ greatly depending on the individual circumstance of the pet and how much of the pet needs to be scanned. Generally, they will be in the thousands, but a more precise estimate can be provided to your regular veterinarian, or to you during a SASH consult.
A consult with a specialist, such as Internal Medicine or Surgery specialists is important, as they will be able to advise on the necessity of a CT scan for your pet. In many cases, there may be other options that can be explored.
Why is a CT scan cheaper for humans?
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, we are fortunate to live in a country that offers a robust universal human healthcare system. In Australia, many diagnostic services, such as CT scans for people are subsidised or even paid for entirely by taxpayers, through the government (eg. bulk billing). Unfortunately, the Australian government does not subsidise pet health care, leading to the perception that it is more expensive.
Secondly, humans generally do not require anaesthesia for CT scans, which eliminates the need for an Anaesthetist and the cost of associated drugs, fluids, and recovery monitoring.
For these reasons, SASH recommends owners explore pet insurance, which can help reduce some out of pocket expenses, such as CT scans for pets.
When looking for a hospital to provide a CT scan for pets, consider the following:
- Is the CT scan taken with a modern machine capable of capturing adequate detail?
- Is the aenesthetic overseen by an Anaesthetist?
- Is the CT scan overseen and interpreted by a Diagnostic Imaging Specialist?
- In the event of complications, is there an ICU with 24/7 vet oversight?
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