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The advantages of ultrasound

My practice recently acquired a truly state of the art ultrasound machine.  All of our scans are performed by ultrasound-certified doctors or licensed technicians with the remote assistance of professional sonographers.  Every study is interpreted by a board-certified specialist; either a radiologist or a cardiologist.  Several area practices have started referring patients to our facility to benefit from this modern diagnostic equipment.  The new technology has also brought about several common questions that I would like to address in this week’s column.

Q:  When is an ultrasound used instead of an X-ray?

A:  Each technology has strengths and weaknesses and is therefore ideal for different circumstances.  In general, X-rays are great at imaging hard tissues or objects.  It is also a good technology to visualize anything surrounded by air.  Ultrasound machines use sound waves that are blocked by solid objects and dissipated by air filled spaces.

Therefore, if your veterinarian is looking to see if your dog has a broken bone or your cat swallowed a sewing needle, X-rays would be the preferred technology.  Similarly, looking for problems in air-filled structures, like the lungs or sinus passages, would best be done using an X-ray machine.

When it comes to soft tissue structures, X-rays have significant limitations.  They condense all those mushy internal organs into a single two dimensional image.  Fluid buildup and overlapping anatomic structures can obscure X-ray images much like bone and air obscure ultrasounds.  Also, X-ray films capture only a split second in time, so cannot demonstrate motion.

Ultrasound machines allow us to look at details within soft tissue organs and see motion.  Images are actually improved in the presence of fluid, like within the urinary bladder, heart, or in the presence of free fluid in the abdomen or chest.  So if your veterinarian feels an abdominal tumor and wants to see if it is operable, an ultrasound is usually the better technology.  If there is a problem with your pet’s heart, an ultrasound will allow us to watch the heart as it beats measuring specific chamber sizes and contractility.

Q:  What is “color Doppler?”

A:  Christian Doppler was a 19th century physicist who determined a way to measure the speed of a moving object using sound waves.  Today, this principle is used for a variety of uses including catching speeders and predicting weather.  Advanced ultrasound machines use Doppler-based technology to allow us to actually see blood flowing through arteries, veins, or the heart.  The movement of blood is shown as colors that represent various speeds and directions of flow.As a practical matter, this technology allows us to better diagnose heart diseases and liver shunts.  It can also help us determine the blood supply to an organ or limb if compromise is suspected or an operation is being considered.

Q:  Is an echocardiogram the same thing as an EKG?

A:  No.  An echocardiogram is a detailed ultrasound examination of the heart.  It includes measurement of the chamber sizes, evaluation of blood flow, calculation of contractility and cardiac output, and documentation of abnormal structures.  EKG, or alternatively ECG, stands for electrocardiogram.  That is a study of heart rhythm based upon lines on paper that are obtained through electrodes placed on the skin.  While an echocardiogram can give limited information on heart rhythm and an electrocardiogram can give limited information on heart size and function, each type of study provides specialized and unique information.

Due to the wonders of modern technology, specialist interpretation of X-rays, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, and EKGs can now be obtained close to home.  Previously a drive to a specialty referral center or veterinary school would have been required.  Now, your veterinarian has access to it right here in Culpeper County.  Just ask for a referral to Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care or request an appointment directly through our practice’s web site or Facebook page.

About Wrightwood Medical

Wrightwood Medical was created to address the rapidly rising health care costs and the need for cost-effective alternatives to buying expensive new ultrasound equipment without sacrificing quality. Wrightwood’s mission is to supply state-of-the-art used ultrasound equipment at a fraction of the cost. Over the years we have succeeded in providing our customers with the best pricing, the most cutting edge ultrasound equipment, and the most comprehensive follow-up service in the industry. We have proven that saving money does not mean you have to sacrifice quality or service. Click here to buy used ultrasound equipment.  In addition, we are always interested in purchasing most types of medical equipment, click here to sell ultrasound equipment.

Knowledge, craftsmanship and speed are just some of the attributes that have helped Wrightwood become the premier leader in the ultrasound field. By working with us, you can buy with confidence and know that your satisfaction is the highest priority of our personalized customer service. Choose Wrightwood Medical to meet all your equipment and ultrasound machines.