Ultrasound is a very commonly used diagnostic imaging modality in veterinary medicine. Most people think of pregnancy when ultrasound is mentioned; while we do use it to diagnose and monitor our patients’ pregnancies, we use it far more commonly for other reasons. Ultrasound provides an economical, safe, and pain-free way to evaluate the soft tissues throughout the body. While we can see only the outlines of organs in the abdomen on x-ray, ultrasound allows us to see through the organs and evaluate their full extent. It is commonly used in veterinary medicine in situations when a CT or MRI might be chosen for a human patient. In the abdomen, we can evaluate every organ for signs of degenerative disease, illness, cancer, or other problems. Examples of conditions we often diagnose include gall bladder disease, obstructions in the intestine or stomach, tumors, various types of kidney failure, adrenal disease, bladder problems, masses on the spleen, and others.
Ultrasound is also used to evaluate the chest cavity and other sites on the body. The peripheral lungs and space around the lungs are easily and quickly evaluated. If needed, an ultrasound-guided aspiration of fluid around the lungs can be obtained to assist in both diagnosis and treatment of diseases in the chest cavity. On occasion, we also use ultrasound to help with surgical planning for a mass removal, to find foreign bodies (e.g. spear grass) under the skin, and to evaluate musculoskeletal injuries.
Echocardiography is simply an ultrasound of the heart. Ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive way to evaluate the heart’s size, function, and blood flow. While rare congenital defects may require a trip to a Board-Certified veterinary cardiologist for diagnosis, the more common diseases can be diagnosed in-house. Common conditions we diagnose include mitral valve disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, pericardial effusion, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension, and others.