Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure similar to an x-ray. It works by sending very high frequency sound waves through body tissues and recording the waves as they are reflected back. Sophisticated computer programs in the Ultrasound machine transform those reflections into detailed images of the internal organs and other objects. As the sound waves are transmitted continuously, an ultrasound scan produces a moving picture of an organ or body part as it is actually functioning. The pattern of reflected sound waves can also be processed to generate images and sounds of blood flow through the heart and other organs. Board-Certified veterinarians have specialized training and extensive experience performing and interpreting ultrasounds.
Uses of Ultrasound
Commonly the heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, spleen, urinary bladder and other organs located in the abdomen are evaluated but eyes, tendons, and muscles can also be imaged. Most organs except those containing air such as the lungs can be evaluated.
The benefits of ultrasound are enormous and are used for a wide range of conditions:
- Diseases that are difficult to diagnose.
- Diseases undetected without invasive surgery.
- Diseases that otherwise would require sophisticated and expensive diagnostic procedures.
- Tissue biopsies can be taken by using an ultrasound scan to guide the biopsy needle to the required area through a tiny incision in the skin.
- Abnormal fluid accumulation in the chest cavity, around the heart or within the abdominal cavity is easily removed under ultrasound guidance.
- Ultrasound may confirm that surgery is essential e.g. to remove a foreign object in the bowel.
- An ultrasound may identify conditions that surgery will not help such as multiple invasive tumors.
Although there are other parts of the body that can be studied with ultrasound, abdominal and cardiac ultrasounds are the most common in veterinary medicine.