Radiology - or X-rays - help our veterinarians evaluate muscular-skeletal, cardiovascular (cardiopulmonary), gastrointestinal, reproductive and urinary systems.
Radiology is a medical specialty that uses imaging to diagnose and treat disease seen within the body. Radiologists use a variety of imaging techniques such as X-ray radiography, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose or treat diseases. Interventional radiology is the performance of (usually minimally invasive) medical procedures with the guidance of imaging technologies.
The acquisition of medical imaging is usually carried out by the radiographer. The diagnostic radiologist then interprets or "reads" the images and produces a report of their findings and impression or diagnosis. This report is then transmitted to the physician who ordered the imaging, either routinely or emergently. Specialist physicians may also read specific radiologic examinations performed on their own patients. Examples include orthopedic surgeons reading X-rays and MRIs of bones and joints, cardiologists reading cardiac nuclear medicine and performing and reading coronary artery angiograms, obstetricians reading obstetric ultrasounds, pulmonologists reading chest X-rays and chest CT scans, etc.
Medical ultrasonography uses ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) to visualize soft tissue structures in the body in real time. No ionizing radiation is involved, but the quality of the images obtained using ultrasound is highly dependent on the skill of the person (ultrasonographer) performing the exam and the patient's body size. Examinations of larger, overweight patients may have a decrease in image quality as their subcutaneous fat absorbs more of the sound waves. This results in fewer sound waves penetrating to organs and reflecting back to the transducer, resulting in loss of information and a poorer quality image. Ultrasound is also limited by its inability to image through air pockets (lungs, bowel loops) or bone. Its use in medical imaging has developed mostly within the last 30 years. The first ultrasound images were static and two-dimensional (2D), but with modern ultrasonography, 3D reconstructions can be observed in real time, effectively becoming "4D".
Because ultrasound imaging techniques do not employ ionizing radiation to generate images (unlike radiography, and CT scans), they are generally considered safer and are therefore more common in obstetrical imaging. The progression of pregnancies can be thoroughly evaluated with less concern about damage from the techniques employed, allowing early detection and diagnosis of many fetal anomalies. Growth can be assessed over time, important in patients with chronic disease or pegnancy-induced disease, and in multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.). Color-flow Doppler ultrasound measures the severity of peripheral vascular disease and is used by cardiologists for dynamic evaluation of the heart, heart valves and major vessels. Stenosis, for example, of the carotid arteries may be a warning sign for an impending stroke. A clot, embedded deep in one of the inner veins of the legs, can be found via ultrasound before it dislodges and travels to the lungs, resulting in a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. Ultrasounds is useful as a guide to performing biopsies to minimise damage to surrounding tissues and in drainages such as thoracentesis. Small, portable ultrasound devices now replace peritoneal lavage in trauma wards by non-invasively assessing for the presence of internal bleeding and any internal organ damage. Extensive internal bleeding or injury to the major organs may require surgery and repair.