like up on facebook

Veterinary MRI: Protecting Your Pet and Pocketbook

Wed, Oct 23, 2013

As one of the first Veterinary MRI Outpatient companies; AnimlScan has performed around 30,000 scans and has more collective experience than any veterinary MRI facility in the country. We have perfected our scans to maximize patient imaging and minimize anesthesia, which we believe creates a safer experience. While MRI comes at a cost, there are reasons for the expense, however not all Veterinary MRI providers are created equal and when substandard providers are used there are increased chances for poor imaging results or false imaging results. With a high quality MRI provider, a negative scan is generally known as a good thing; however with poor or low quality scanning facilities the patient runs the risk of incorrect diagnosis which can lead to improper treatment or missed opportunities to save an Animal’s life. At the very least the veterinarian is not able to complete the diagnostic process and the pet owner is required to invest more money to have the scan redone at a more reputable facility.   At the most we are talking disease progression….

How do owners protect their pets from just this type of event? The answer is simple ………… ASK QUESTIONS!
The best facilities will brag about the following criteria:

Does the facility have a High-Field Magnet?

High-field magnets are defined as those magnets that have a measurement of greater than 1 Telsa which is the unit used to measure magnetic flux density. Stronger magnets result in significantly shorter scan durations, which means less time under anesthesia for the patient. High-field magnets also create better images which is especially important for pint sized patients. Smaller lesions are easier to visualize in higher field magnets.  Even more important than a high-field magnet are the qualifications of the personnel in charge of operations and positioning.

Is an A.R.R.T. Register Technologist operating the MRI Equipment?

Human MRI technologists train for years in order to learn how to maximize the equipment’s imaging potential and quality as well as anatomy. Not only is it important to know what buttons to push, but knowing which coils to use in what region and proper patient positioning are of equal importance. A strong understanding of physics is absolutely essential in correct MR Imaging. Many veterinary operated magnets cut costs by giving veterinary technicians a crash course in MRI operation and handing over the reins within a few weeks. MRI operation is a skill that takes a long time to perfect, and when facilities have the hubris to believe they can teach this important skill to a novice operator; they are putting your pet’s life at stake. When you make the decision to have your pet scanned for diagnostic purposes; you are trying to save their lives, if you have made that commitment you are better served by selecting a facility with a trained A.R.R.T Technologist.

Is a board certified veterinary radiologist reading every scan?

Not all veterinary practices with MRI capabilities will order a radiology consult as a standard procedure of the MRI. Alternatively the referring neurologist will read the scan and determine on a case by case basis if the particular scan requires an additional radiologists input. This is not advisable in human medicine and should be even less acceptable in veterinary medicine as the patient can’t tell you where it hurts and symptoms can sometimes be misleading.  Because the referring veterinarian already has a clinical idea of what may be wrong it is important to have a fully objective view from a board certified radiologist. Sometimes there may be underlying pathology which a neurologist may overlook, but that may be crucial to treatment. And since we are a veterinary practice in which the only medicine we actually practice is anesthesia we have board certified veterinary anesthesiologists on task for every scan at our flagship locations.

Will there be a Board Certified Veterinary Anesthesiologist overseeing your pets scan?

By far the biggest difference between human MRI and veterinary MRI is the fact that we cannot tell our patients to remain still. As motion creates artifact and can render an MR image unreadable we must anesthetize the patients. While some veterinary practices with MRI capabilities employ a general veterinarian or a veterinary technician to oversee the anesthesia at AnimalScan we have several reasons for requiring ours veterinarians to be board certified anesthesiologists.  In order to collect all of the information we need, which can be up to 18 sequences, the patient must remain under anesthesia for about an hour. They may later that day or the following require an additional anesthesia for a surgical procedure. For that reason we want to minimize the amount of time and the depth of the sedation. As the patients only require a light anesthesia for MRI our anesthesiologists are able to maintain a light sedation which prevents the patient from moving throughout the scan while also allowing them to wake up moments after exiting the scanner. Possibly even more important than depth of sedation is the safety factor. The majority of any MRI provider’s patients are either brain scans or geriatric or both. Once the staff has applied the coils and the patient is placed within the bore of the magnet it is almost impossible to properly monitor them visually. According to veterinary anesthesiologist Julie Smith, “Limited access and visualization may be the most difficult situation in which to adjust.” Almost all of the anesthesia monitoring is performed from outside of the Ferriday Cage or MRI room. Other anesthetic considerations include; MRI safe anesthetic equipment, prevention of movement, and patient size as small patients may be completely inaccessible throughout a scan.  While these are all important questions when searching for the best MRI provider, not everyone has the luxury of being picky. Veterinary MRI providers are not always readily available. In fact some neurologists are left with no alternative but to use human centers during their off hours. In areas where they are more prevalent why take the chance on safety or quality?