When pets are unwell, successful management of their illness depends on an accurate diagnosis. The clearer the diagnosis, the more individualised the treatment can be, and the better the outcomes for patients and their families. Diagnostic Imaging (commonly known as ‘radiology’ or ‘scanning’) is a powerful investigative tool that helps to establish a diagnosis in a non-invasive way.
There are several kinds of Diagnostic Imaging, each requiring a specific type of equipment. While the machinery itself is important, it is just one part of the process. First, veterinarians need to determine which type of imaging is best suited to a particular situation, and whether a combination of procedures may be required.
The next step is to use the selected equipment to its best advantage. Whether it’s a traditional form of imaging, such as radiographs, or an advanced technique such as MRI, the quality of the information obtained from the procedure depends on the skill of the operator, and the expertise of the clinician who interprets the resulting images.
The SASH Diagnostic Imaging team takes pride in bringing these factors together to provide the best possible images and diagnostic outcomes for our patients. With on-site access to state-of-the-art-equipment, we apply our wealth of technical and specialist clinical knowledge across a comprehensive range of imaging techniques, including:
- Digital x-ray
- Fluoroscopy (moving x-ray)
- CT (Computed Tomography)
About the SASH Diagnostic Imaging Team
The specialist veterinarians in our team have extensive experience in all aspects of Diagnostic Imaging. They are supported by highly qualified radiographers whose technical skills and rigorous standards in operating and maintaining the imaging equipment are crucial for optimising patient outcomes.
SASH is one of the few fortunate hospitals in Australia to have imaging specialists available on a full-time basis, as this allows close collaboration between the Diagnostic Imaging team and other in-house specialist services including Surgery, Internal Medicine, The Animal Cancer Centre, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Anaesthesia and Avian & Exotics. Our specialists support their colleagues in these departments by advising on the most appropriate form(s) of imaging, promptly checking scans as they are generated to make sure they are suitable (quality control) and providing short turn-around times on interpretation of images. Using teleradiology, our full-time Diagnostic Imaging specialists can also provide rapid off-site interpretation of imaging performed at Adelaide hospital.
This seamlessly integrated, multidisciplinary approach improves the quality of patient care by speeding up diagnosis and permitting faster commencement of treatment.
The Diagnostic Imaging team at SASH also includes veterinarians undertaking specialist training. These talented and highly motivated clinicians work under the close supervision and guidance of our Diagnostic Imaging specialists. We are proud to mentor and guide them as they follow their chosen path. The team is also supported by our caring Diagnostic Imaging nurses and trainee nurses who look after pets during their imaging procedures.
What are the different types of Diagnostic Imaging used for?
Conventional radiography (x-ray study) has a wide range of applications including examination of bones and joints, and screening of the chest and abdomen for evidence of abnormalities.
Fluoroscopy allows the examination of internal structures while they are in motion. This is useful for assessing processes such as swallowing, examining the function of the heart, and visualising procedures (e.g. surgeries) in real time. It is also used for investigating airway disease.
Ultrasound is most frequently used to scan the abdomen, particularly for pets suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea. Ultrasound allows rapid diagnosis of diseases such as pancreatitis or intestinal obstructions, allowing veterinarians to initiate treatment quickly to ensure the best possible outcome.
Computed Tomography (CT) has a range of uses, including cancer screening and staging, and assessment of complex bone and joint problems.
MRI is most commonly used for investigation of brain diseases (including seizures, brain tumours, strokes) as well as for many spinal diseases.
What types of Diagnostic Imaging are available at each SASH hospital?
At SASH Sydney and Adelaide, pets and their families have access to a comprehensive range of Diagnostic Imaging techniques, including high-end CT (128 slice in Sydney) and MRI (1.5 Tesla). These machines produce high resolution images in a relatively short time, thus reducing the time that pets are required to spend under sedation or anaesthesia.
At our Central Coast hospital, we routinely perform radiographic (x-ray), ultrasound and CT examinations. For pets requiring MRI examination, we can arrange patient transport between our Central Coast and Sydney hospitals.
Do pets need to be anaesthetised when undergoing diagnostic imaging?
For some types of imaging, particularly x-ray studies, CT and MRI, it is important that the patient remains still to obtain motion-reduced, best quality images. This can sometimes be achieved with sedation only, especially with our powerful CT and MRI machines that can produce high quality scans relatively quickly. In some cases, it is best to use general anaesthesia, both for the patient’s well-being and the quality of the scan. We work with our specialist colleagues in the Anaesthesia team to decide whether sedation or anaesthesia is best for each patient, and to develop an individualised sedation or anaesthesia plan. At SASH, we are one of the few hospitals in Australia fortunate enough to have full time specialist anaesthetists who can significantly reduce the risk for patients requiring general anaesthesia.
For fluoroscopy and ultrasound, patients may be conscious, sedated or anesthetised, depending on their needs and the purpose of the procedure.