New OVC equipment will help diagnose and research a variety of heart problems
BY BARRY GUNN, OVC
The Small-Animal Clinic at the Ontario Veterinary College is on the leading edge of medical imaging and diagnostic capability thanks to new equipment purchased through the Pet Trust Fund.
Two new echocardiographic ultrasound units, one of which has 3-D capabilities, as well as a computer workstation, will help diagnose and research a variety of heart problems in patients ranging from dogs and cats to horses.
“The equipment can be used for any kind of heart problem on any kind of animal,” says Prof. Mike O'Grady, Clinical Studies.
OVC's veterinary hospital is the first in North America, and one of the first hospitals of any kind in Canada, to have 3-D ultrasound equipment. Pet Trust raised about $400,000 through its annual special project to buy the new equipment.
The 3-D innovation is so new that it will take time to prove the full potential of the technology, says O'Grady. In fact, there are few people who can provide the training necessary to use it. A specialist from GE Healthcare Canada visited OVC for staff training sessions in May.
“The easy answer is, we don't know yet what it will do for us,” he says. “But history says all the previous enhancements in the world of ultrasound technology have proven to be exceptionally important. We are in a glorious position to have had an opportunity to purchase these machines.”
Like the name suggests, ultrasound uses echoes of high-frequency sound waves to create images of structures and tissues in the body. In conventional scanning, the ultrasound image is made up of a series of thin slices of data, but only one slice can be viewed at a time. The 3-D function can rotate the image 360 degrees and in multiple planes, allowing doctors to view and describe anomalies in greater detail than ever before.
But the 3-D capability is only a small part of the value of the new equipment, says O'Grady.
Because the machines collect data digitally, patient information is easier to store and retrieve than with older systems that use videotape. With the separate workstation, clinicians can finish their analyses on the computer while someone else uses the machine for another scan. Measurements can be taken after the fact, images can be manipulated using colour to look for particular information, and researchers can carry out retrospective studies using data collected through previous scans. Finally, the information is portable; it can be easily shared with or sent to students and colleagues or used in presentations and lecture notes.
“It gives you so much versatility,” says O'Grady. “In day-to-day use, this is a massive improvement from where we were before.”
The Small-Animal Clinic now boasts three cardiologists, and the new equipment is needed to accommodate growing demand and staff research activities, he says. The clinic does 25 to 30 ultrasound exams per week, with dogs making up about 80 per cent of the total.
O'Grady says it's all about empowering owners, providing them with the best available information to make life-and-death decisions for their animal.
“When they're weighing those things, the more input I can give them in terms of how bad the abnormality is and how life-threatening it is, then perhaps they can better decide to what extent they want to engage in a risky procedure such as surgery. I'm often faced with people who are prepared to take huge risks because they're faced with a terrible outcome if they don't take the risk.”
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