An ultrasound examination, also known as ultrasonography, is a non-invasive imaging technique that allows us to see internal body structures by recording echoes or reflections of ultrasonic waves. Unlike other imaging techniques, ultrasound is considered safe as it does not involve radiation. It directs high-frequency sound waves into the area of interest, which may be transmitted through, reflected, or absorbed by the tissues it encounters.
Ultrasound waves that are reflected return as echoes to the probe and are converted into a 2-dimensional “picture” displayed on the monitor. This technique is invaluable for examining internal organs, diagnosing pregnancies, evaluating heart conditions, and identifying changes in abdominal organs. It is also highly effective in identifying cysts and tumors.
Drawbacks of Ultrasound Examinations
However, it’s important to note that ultrasound examinations have limitations. They are not effective for examining organs that contain air or bones. Ultrasound waves cannot pass through air, making it impossible to examine normal lungs. Similarly, bone stops ultrasound waves, preventing the visualization of the brain, spinal cord, and other bones.
Different Forms of Ultrasound
Depending on the images produced, ultrasound can take various forms. In veterinary medicine, the most common form is B-mode (brightness-mode) ultrasound, also known as 2-dimensional ultrasound. This type of ultrasound provides a two-dimensional picture of the scanned organ. It is widely used for examining abdominal structures, diagnosing pregnancies, evaluating cardiac function, and detecting certain eye diseases.
M-mode (motion-mode) ultrasound is a type of B-mode that displays a tracing of the motion of the scanned structure. It is commonly used to examine the heart walls, chambers, and valves to evaluate cardiac function. When combined with 2-dimensional ultrasound, it is referred to as echocardiography. Doppler ultrasound, on the other hand, measures the direction and speed of blood flow in the heart and blood vessels. Color-flow Doppler technology makes it even easier to observe the flow of blood through the heart and important blood vessels.
Anesthesia and Shaving
For most ultrasound examinations, anesthesia is not necessary unless biopsies are to be taken. The technique is painless, and dogs typically lie comfortably during the scan. In rare cases where dogs are frightened or restless, a sedative may be used. If biopsies are required, a short-acting anesthetic or heavy sedative will be used to relax the pet and prevent complications.
In terms of shaving, it is usually necessary to shave the fur to achieve proper contact between the hand-held probe and the skin. Ultrasound waves do not transmit through air, so complete contact is essential. In some cases, such as pregnancy diagnosis, adequate images can be obtained by moistening the hair with rubbing alcohol and applying a water-soluble ultrasound gel. However, shaving the area to be examined will always ensure better-quality ultrasound images.
Obtaining Results and Affordability
Ultrasound studies provide real-time results, meaning the findings are known immediately. In some cases, the ultrasound images may be sent to a veterinary radiologist for further consultation, which may delay the final report by a few days. While the initial cost of a scan may seem high, it is important to consider the expenses associated with the equipment, specialized training, and the time required to carry out the examination. Ultrasound’s usefulness in pregnancy diagnosis, evaluating internal organs, assessing heart function, and detecting certain eye diseases makes it an invaluable, non-invasive diagnostic tool for safeguarding your pet’s well-being.
To learn more about ultrasound examinations for your beloved companion, visit Katten TrimSalon.