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How do our pets benefit from technological advances in
Some of the latest innovation in imaging and treatment
technology has led to less invasive, more accurate, and even faster
diagnosis of disease, which improves outcomes for our pets.
Veterinarians add these new tools to their treatment arsenal to
identify the best treatment options for their patients, with the
ultimate objective of avoiding invasive procedures such as surgery
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a promising technological
advance that veterinary medicine is incorporating into practice.
Dr. Tige Witsberger, lecturer at Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, thinks the use of MRI
in soft tissue surgery has exciting potential.
"MRI is currently used on a regular basis for our neurology
cases. We are hopeful that as the cost and time to perform an MRI
decreases we'll be able to utilize MRI on a more regular basis on
the orthopedic and soft tissue surgery services," says Witsberger.
"We are currently building a new facility for a very powerful 3T
MRI that should be completed in the spring of 2011. This should
allow us to perform faster scans and to use the MRI for orthopedic
conditions like ACL and meninscal tears. In addition,
identification of soft tissue masses prior to surgery could be
greatly improved with the use of MRI."
In addition to its potential use in neurologic, orthopedic, and
soft tissue treatment, MRI is also an important technology for
studying diseases of the heart. However, MRI carries a
relatively high cost, requires the use of anesthesia, and has
limited availability making its widespread adoption relatively
limited at present.
"Like with anything new that appears to be costly, you have to
show an added value. For instance is the new technology less
invasive to the patient or does it do a better job than other
available diagnostic imaging technologies," says Dr. Sonya Gordon,
associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences. "You need to use the best tools to get the
most accurate answer without over utilizing a particular technology
just because it is new; it's a cost-benefit analysis."
However, technology changes fast and other evolving imaging
modalities may challenge MRI as the tool of choice in specific
Ultrasound, for instance, "has improved so much over the last
ten years that it would be hard right now to find a reason to use
MRI in a clinical cardiology case," says Gordon. "We know that
ultrasound has been around for a long time, but the technology has
dramatically improved leading to even 3D and 4D imaging options to
name a few advances. I think we will learn more about the
usefulness of ultrasound and particularly, we'll understand how the
newer aspects of this technology can help us better understand
diseases. The current gold standard for evaluating many aspects of
heart size and function is considered MRI. However, given the
advances in ultrasound imaging: its reduced cost relative to MRI,
its availability, the fact that patients do not require anesthesia,
and the relative ease of image acquisition and interpretation it is
much better suited to serial evaluations which are very important
in monitoring disease progression and tailoring therapy."
What is the next technological step in veterinary medicine?
"As cardiologists, we strive to offer minimally invasive
procedures that can be performed through access to arteries and
veins, that allow us to put in special devices to fix some heart
defects or to dilate areas that are too tight with balloons,"
For her, the technological Holy Grail would be non-invasively
repair mitral valves that leak, which is a very common problem in
According to Gordon, another great recent advance in veterinary
cardiology was the development of the Amplatz Canine Ductal Ocluder
(CDO). This was a revolutionary device because, unlike previous
devices that were used to non-invasively repair a common congenital
heart defect in the dog, this device was specifically designed for
"It makes fixing these cardiac defects in the dog much easier
and takes much less time. It's one of those things that costs a
little bit more but works very well making it a great advancement,"
As technology becomes more affordable and accessible to
veterinarians, the ability to integrate these new tools into
veterinary practice will become routine and will ultimately improve
the quality of life for pets everywhere.
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