What is an Ultrasound?
What to Expect
Before the Procedure
Appointments must be scheduled through your veterinarian’s office. Pet owners are usually requested to drop off their pets at the clinic at least a couple hours prior to the procedure. Unless your pet is diabetic, or you are otherwise directed by your veterinarian, it is important that he or she not be fed the morning of the procedure, as a full stomach can interfere with the evaluation. It is OK to allow them to drink water.
During the Procedure
The area to be evaluated is typically clipped, as fur will usually prevent a good ultrasound signal. Generally, just the underside of the abdomen will need to be clipped. Your pet will be placed in a very comfortable, padded position and gently restrained by an assistant or veterinary technician while the scan is performed (some dogs actually will fall asleep). The procedure is noninvasive and painless. Most pets can be scanned without any type of sedation, although this is sometimes needed for those pets who are especially stressed or painful. Sedation is often, but not always, needed if a needle sample is desired. Owners are not present during the evaluation so that we can focus completely on performing the most thorough evaluation possible.
After the Procedure
In addition to a thorough verbal discussion of findings with your veterinarian that usually takes place during the scan, a complete written report is provided to them. This report not only provides the ultrasound findings, but also covers additional recommended tests and treatment options based on my over 27 years of clinical specialty experience. Your veterinarian will discuss the findings and additional recommendations for your pet with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t my vet perform the ultrasound?
Why can’t the appointment be scheduled at a specific time?
Does the ultrasound hurt, and will my pet require sedation?
Can ultrasound diagnose cancer?
What are the limitations to ultrasound?
Other common limitations of ultrasound include interference by gas and bone (ultrasound waves do not penetrate gas or dense tissue like bone), obesity or excessively thin body condition, very large body size, excessive fluid retention in the body, deep-chested body conformation in which the ribcage interferes with imaging the upper abdomen, and lean or muscular patients.
Can I be present for the evaluation?
How long does the evaluation take?
Can a biopsy be obtained during the ultrasound?
A needle aspirate uses a very thin needle, often the same size as those used to give injections but longer, to obtain a very small sample of tissue for cytology. The sample usually resembles a small spot of blood or fluid. This procedure can usually be done during the ultrasound and usually has very low risk of complications. Sedation is sometimes needed.
A needle biopsy uses a larger needle, and this collects a tubular sample of tissue about the size of the lead in a pencil and approximately ¼” to ½” in length for histopathology. This procedure is only scheduled after the ultrasound is completed, typically requiring another visit. The procedure is generally considered safe, but it does pose some additional risk for bleeding or infection. Your pet’s clotting system will need to be checked before the procedure, and deep sedation or anesthesia are needed as well.
Can I speak directly with the specialist following the evaluation?
Will treatment recommendations be made for my pet?
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