Thursday, July 25, 2013


Sorry about the lack of blogging recently.  With the summer, things have been a little hectic.  I wanted to take some time now to discuss a newer form of testing we have added to our clinics here in Champaign/Urbana.  We have recently started to offer ultrasound services at our clinic in Savoy.  Currently, these are limited to abdominal (stomach, kidney, liver, spleen, etc) imaging, but we hope to offer echocardiogram (heart) imaging in the future.

The question you might be asking is what is ultrasound and when might we need to use it for your pet.  Unlike x-ray, which uses radiation to take images, ultrasound uses sound waves that are directed towards organs and the machine listens for the sound reflections from these organs to make images.  So instead of just being able to evaluate the outline of the liver or intestines (such is done with x-rays), we are able to better evaluate the architecture of organs.

Above are examples of ultrasound images from the intestines of cat.  As you can see, we can observe the different layers of the intestines and effectively evaluate for any thickening of the bowel or possible obstruction.

You might ask what would be a good use for this form of technology?  There are many patients where ultrasound can be helpful.  I will just talk about a couple examples.

Some owners have cats that may vomit periodically or may be losing weight.  We start with blood work and don't find many changes.  The next step may be an abdominal ultrasound.  During the ultrasound we scan all the abdominal organs, but in this case would likely focus on the intestines and pancreas.  With the ultrasound we can evaluate the intestinal wall thickness and see whether it appears thickened.  If the intestine is thickened, we can determine which layer of the intestine is thick and then can make a list of diseases (inflammatory bowel disease, lymphoma, etc) that could be causing the problem.  We can also evaluate the pancreas to see whether any signs of pancreatitis are evident.

Another case that ultrasound may be helpful would be to evaluate elevations in a dogs liver values.  In older dogs elevations of liver values can be benign or could indicate the start of a more serious condition.  With ultrasound we can evaluate the structure of the liver and possibly get an aspirate or biopsy sample to evaluate for a more serious condition.
Ultrasound on a dog
The nice thing about ultrasound is it that it is a non-invasive procedure.  We only have to shave the underside of the belly (and possibly sedate your pet) to get good images and a possible diagnosis.  Like any test, it may not give us all the answers, but many times can give us a lot more information that can benefit your pet greatly.
Ultrasound image of a kidney
Please let me know if you have any questions.