Radiographs (x-rays) are the most common imaging modality used to diagnose disorders in companion animals. At The AMC, two digital radiology suites operate 24 hours a day to provide images for in-house appointments, our emergency service, and area veterinarians. In 2012, over 8,000 radiographic studies were performed at The AMC. Digital radiography allows for easy dissemination of diagnostic information and reduced radiation exposure to patients. All exams are reviewed by an in-house board certified veterinary radiologist.
The most common radiographic exam performed at The AMC is the examination of the chest (see image). A chest (or thoracic) radiograph provides detailed imaging of the heart, lungs and surrounding structures (ribs, etc.) Veterinarians will order radiographs of the chest (or thorax) for an assortment of indications (fever, cough, heart murmur, recent trauma, rapid or difficulty breathing, to name a few).
To obtain even more information from radiographs, the radiologist will occasionally add contrast medium (barium, iodine-based compounds, or air) to a radiographic study. To the right is an image of a dog’s abdomen after oral administration of barium into the stomach and intestines. The addition of barium shows an accumulation in the intestine where a chunk of abnormal material (pieces of a shoe!) prevents the barium from advancing to the colon (black arrow). Surgery was indicated after seeing these images. Contrast studies are performed for an assortment of clinical presentations, including urinary stones (stones in the kidneys or bladder) and to highlight abnormal growths or areas of inflammation.
Another use of x-ray in our radiology service is the “moving x-ray” or fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy allows the radiologist to view anatomy in real-time for various conditions, including esophageal or gastrointestinal motility disorders. Another common indication is in the evaluation of dynamic collapse of the trachea (a common disease of small breed dogs, like Yorkshire terriers). The radiologists commonly work with our Interventional Radiology Service when evaluating these fluoroscopic images.