Diagnostic Imaging at theVSCAN
HIGH FIELD MRI:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is considered to be the advanced imaging modality of choice when imaging the soft tissues of the body. This is especially true when imaging the structures of the central nervous system. Most neurological problems (including intervertebral disk disease, meningitis/encephalitis, brain tumors, strokes, etc) require an MRI to give an accurate diagnosis. With conventional radiography (x-ray) the resulting image is two dimensional with the tissue structures overlapping each other. This makes it difficult to diagnose many conditions with x-rays alone. MRI uses a strong magnetic field to make a cross sectional image of the internal structures of the body. A MRI study is completely non-invasive, however patients must remain completely still, so anesthesia is required. MRI does not use radiation like X-rays, but rather the strong magnetic field aligns the hydrogen protons in the body allowing them to be manipulated by strong radio frequencies. Since the technology is operating on a microscopic level it can detect small signals emitted from each cell in the body, making it ideally suited to image the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. Special technology within the MRI receives the emitted signals and relays them to a computer which, in turn, creates an image of the body part being scanned. This diagnostic technique is also useful in diagnosing certain muscle conditions and diseases in the chest, abdomen and joints. Depending on the area and suspected disease process the exam may require the patients to receive a contrast injection. The contrast helps to determine whether tissue is normal, inflamed, or cancerous. The contrast agent also helps define the borders between normal and abnormal tissues. Multiple scans are performed before and after the contrast injection for comparison. MRI scans of the brain always require contrast injections and post contrast scans. However, MRI scans of the spine do not always require contrast.
Our High-field MRI provides clearer images in less time compared to low-field MRI. This means a more accurate diagnosis with less need for anesthesia.
Multi-slice CT Scan:
CT, or Computed Tomography, utilizes an X-ray tube that rotates around the patient in the scanner. As the patient moves through the scanner, the x-ray exposure is received by a digital detector which rotates opposite the x-ray tube. A computer is then used to reconstruct high resolution cross-sectional images of the patient. CT provides invaluable information for surgical planning of many spinal disorders. CT also allows for detailed visualization of bone, cartilage, lungs, and large soft tissue structures. Another benefit of CT scan is that an image can be obtain faster compared with MRI and is often used to quickly diagnose intervertebral disc herniations. CT can provide immediate information when caring for critical trauma cases. Our multi-slice CT scanner collects simultaneous data at different slice locations reducing the length of some studies to less than a minute.
Diagnostic Radiography (X-Ray):
Diagnostic Radiography, or "X-Ray" as it is commonly referred to, is a two dimensional imaging modality utilizing an X-ray tube and some form of image receptor. The concept is quite simple but it's uses are vast and quite heavily relied on in veterinary medicine. The patient is placed between the x-ray source and the receptor usually on a designated table and positioned in an ideal way to produce the desired result. X Radiation is generated and emitted from the tube, passes through the patient, and is received by the receptor. As the x-rays pass through the patient they are absorbed by dense tissues and pass easily through softer tissues and air. The receptor is then exposed based on the amount of radiation it receives. Dense structures such as bone with absorb more radiation, allowing less to pass through the patient, resulting in a lower area of exposure on the image. In this case appearing more "white". Air and tissues containing air, such as the lungs, absorb less radiation and therefore have a higher exposure resulting in a "black" region on the image. The majority of receptors/detectors nowadays are digital devices connected to a computer that provide "instantaneous" development of the image. As is the case with our system at the VSCAN. However, there are still many places that utilize film and screen set-up which requires processing. Though film is still highly diagnostic in most cases, it requires much more time and patience to wait for the images and does not provide easy storage or transmission of the final images.
With any imaging modality utilizing ionizing radiation, it is important to be vigilant regarding radiation safety. Check out this PDF for some helpful tips to protect your patients and your staff from any unnecessary radiation exposure.