We have a digital x-ray machine and also offer digital dental Xrays in the clinic. This allows us to quickly take and develop excellent quality radiographs, and with regard to ultrasounds, we refer to the Veterinary Specialist Group, where they provide an excellent out-patient service.
As far as diagnostic imaging goes, the step-up between x-ray and ultrasound is enormous. Ultrasound uses sound waves rather than x-rays so it is considered to be a lot safer and, as in human medicine, is the diagnostic modality of choice for pregnancy; this is a reflection of its safety. It can often be performed with no or light sedation. It does, however, require the area to be clipped of hair so that a gel can be applied to get good contact that allows transmission of the sound waves.
Radiography is our imaging modality of choice for fractures and bony changes and can give us useful information as to heart size and shape, lung disorders and inflammation, and intra-abdominal abnormalities such as; intestinal foreign bodies, bladder stones and changes in organ size.
However, with respect to soft tissue and fluid, ultrasonography opens up a new world. Where radiology will show, for example, the outline of a kidney or a liver, an ultrasound will show huge amounts of detail within the organ itself. It can answer questions such as; is there a diffuse liver disease like hepatitis or a focal disease such as cancer. Within this organ, ultrasound will allow a needle to be guided into a suspect area for a biopsy.
Ultrasound is also the modality of choice for analysis of cardiac function; it can measure the size of the heart, the size of individual chambers and give an insight into how well blood flows through the valves. The use of colour flow Doppler allows us to see the actual flow of blood within the heart; is it smooth and all in one direction or is there rough mixing up of blood through a faulty valve. It can even be used to measure the velocity or speed of blood through various vessels. As you can imagine this is a lot more detail than an x-ray with which we can say that a heart is big or normal-sized.