What is involved?
An ultrasound examination, also known as ultrasonography or
echosonography, is an imaging technique that allows internal body structures to
be seen by recording echoes of ultrasonic waves. Unlike x-rays, which are
potentially dangerous, ultrasound waves are considered to be entirely safe.
Ultrasound equipment directs a narrow beam of high frequency
sound waves into an area of interest. The sound waves may be transmitted through, reflected or
absorbed by the tissue toward which they are pointed.
As the beam strikes the interface or boundary between two
tissues, some of the ultrasound waves are absorbed and others are reflected
back. These reflected sound waves are converted into electrical impulses that
are displayed on a monitor. This gives a 2-dimensional“picture” of the tissues
The technique is invaluable for the examination of internal
organs and was first used in veterinary medicine for pregnancy diagnosis.
However, the technique is also extremely useful in evaluating and identifying changes in abdominal organs. Ultrasonography is very useful in the diagnosis of cysts and cancers.
Does the technique have any drawbacks?
Ultrasound examinations are of little value in examining
organs that contain air. Ultrasound waves will not pass through air and
therefore it cannot be used to examine the lungs.
Are there different forms of ultrasound?
Depending on the images produced, ultrasound can take various
forms. In veterinary work B-mode ultrasound is the most usual. This gives a two
dimensional picture of the organ scanned. M-mode is also used. This is a type
of B-mode in which the tracing of the motion of the object scanned is
displayed. Patients can have an ultrasound performed by a cardiologist to evaluate the heart.
****Cardiac Ultrasound would be by referral to a specialty practice.
Will my dog have to have an anesthetic?
Anesthesia is not usually needed for most ultrasound
examinations. This is one of the great advantages of ultrasound. The technique
is non-invasive but does involve clipping an area of hair and applying a
water-soluble jelly on the skin. The technique is totally painless and most
pets will lie comfortably while the scan is being performed. Occasionally, if
the pet is very frightened or fractious, a sedative may be necessary.
Is the technique affordable?
Although the initial cost of a scan may seem excessive, it
has to be equated with the high cost of the equipment, the fact that specialist
training is required in order to interpret the images and the time involved in
carrying out the examination. Its value, particularly in cases such as evaluation of the internal organs or pregnancy diagnosis make it an invaluable, non-invasive diagnostic tool to help protect to your pet’s well-being.
This client information sheet is based on
material written by Ernest Ward, DVM.
© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under
license. February 20, 2019
Four Paws Veterinary Hospital
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