Diagnostic ultrasound is a commonly used soft tissue imaging technique in veterinary medicine. It uses sound waves that are bounced off soft tissue interfaces to create an image on the screen. In veterinary medicine, it is used to examine soft tissue structures including abdominal organs, the heart, and thoracic cavity as well as the musculoskeletal system including tendons and ligaments. It is also used to diagnose pregnancy in both small animals and horses.
Ultrasound is a fast and non-invasive technique and most animals can be scanned without sedation. The hair over the area of interest will usually need to be clipped as air trapped within the hair inhibits the passage of sound waves required to create the image.
Ultrasound and radiographs (x-rays) are often used together to gain a better understanding of the structural health of tissues and organs. It is more sensitive than X-rays in identifying diseases such as degeneration or cancer in soft tissue organs or structures. It can be used to evaluate the walls, vessels, and valves of the heart as an echocardiogram in heart disease. Ultrasound is also very sensitive in identifying fluid in the lungs or abdomen and is helpful in guiding the safe collection of tissue samples or fluid when necessary. In performance horses who suffer tendon or ligament injuries, ultrasound is implemented to help identify injuries and monitor healing over time.
Ultrasound is an integral diagnostic tool in our practice and is routinely used as a part of our diagnostic protocols. The veterinarians at our practice are not veterinary radiologists but have participated in continuing education to gain the technical skills and knowledge required to perform and interpret ultrasound studies. There are board certified veterinary radiologists who are available for referral of complicated cases where appropriate.