The cost for CT studies (as of July 1, 2002) ranges from $150 $350 depending on complexity of study. The cost for MRI studies (as of July 1, 2002) ranges from $350 $600 depending on complexity of study. Anesthesia and other medical costs are not included in these estimates.
K-State suite features highly technical, complex veterinary equipment
A recent $1 million renovation to the radiology section at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital showcases advanced in-house technology rarely seen in veterinary teaching hospitals.
By Jennifer Lange
K-State's suite is one of less than 25 percent of Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospitals in North America that have both an MRI and CT in-house.
The three-room suite at K-State features premier computed tomography -- CT -- for small animals and horses as well as magnetic resonance imaging -- MRI -- capabilities for small animals. The equipment, which is rarely available for large animals, offers the same specialized medical care used for human patients. The hospital also houses a linear accelerator to provide radiation therapy.
"Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging capabilities in-house will have a profound positive impact on patient care," said Dr. Roger Fingland, director of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. "We have purchased the most technologically advanced equipment available. We have cross-sectional imaging capability that parallels human medicine and is unsurpassed in veterinary medicine."
Three rooms have been renovated within the hospital to accommodate both pieces of highly technical, complex equipment. Each machine is housed in an individual room and operated from a central control room.
The CT scanner is used to assimilate multiple X-ray images into a two-dimensional, cross-sectional image. MRI scans, which are superior to traditional X-ray images, are used to examine internal structures of the body, particularly the soft tissues of the brain, spinal cord, joints and abdomen. MRI is typically used for detecting and monitoring cancers.
Medical experts are uncertain about which modality is superior for some organ systems and conditions. By housing both pieces of equipment within the hospital, patients can undergo both diagnostic procedures on the same day.
Some areas of the body are difficult to image with conventional radiographs (X-rays) or ultrasound. Because of complex anatomy or overlying structures, tomographic (or slice) images must be used to evaluate the area. CT and MRI also both have the advantage of displaying images digitally, which can emphasize differences between normal and abnormal tissues making problems easier to detect, and the margins easier to recognize.
The MRI room has undergone specific changes to accommodate the imaging technique procedures, Fingland said. MRI technology utilizes a 35,000-pound magnet to polarize hydrogen atoms in the tissues and monitor the summation of the spinning energies within living cells. Copper-shielded walls, doors and windows have been installed to isolate the MRI from radio frequency interference. The CT and MRI equipment is accessible only to authorized personnel including faculty within the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and the College of Veterinary Medicine. The equipment is available to researchers throughout the K-State campus.
Magnetic resonance imaging is safe -- it uses radio-frequency energy to excite molecules in your pet -- similar to that which a radio or TV station emits. No ionizing radiation is used. Low magnetic fields have not been demonstrated to be harmful to animals or people. Caution must be taken in animals or people that have been implanted with pacemakers or metal clips in certain areas.
When a patient is put in a strong magnet, some of the atoms become aligned with the magnetic field. If a carefully tuned radio-frequency (RF) pulse is sent into the patient, those atoms can be tipped over. As the atoms realign themselves with the magnetic field, they give off an RF pulse that can be detected by the MRI scanner. The amount of RF signal given off, and the time at which it is released are characteristic for certain tissues. RF signal changes can differentiate normal from abnormal tissues such as those affected by cancer, infection or trauma.
MRI is useful for looking at soft tissue structures which have low contrast on conventional radiographs (x-rays) and complex soft tissue structures. The largest indications are in imaging the brain, spinal cord, and soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system.
CT units produce a very thin fan of x-rays which are directed through the patient and strike a row of radiation detectors. The amount of radiation going through a specific part of the patient, and therefore reaching the detector is related to the density of the body part.
A CT scanner takes numerous views of each part, and reconstructs an image based on the density of different areas. While CT scanning uses ionizing radiation, the dose received by the patient is similar to that of conventional radiographs (X-rays) and less than that for a human receiving a similar procedure. CT should be avoided in breeding animals during the first trimester of pregnancy. Pets are usually anesthetized for CT scans. These procedures are relatively quick (15-30 minutes), further minimizing the risks.
CT is particularly useful for looking at complex bony structures such as the skull, spine or joints. It is also useful for detecting and characterizing lung disease. Both CT and MRI are excellent for assessing blood flow to an organ or region.
The linear accelerator can be programmed to produce photons or electrons to treat deep or superficial tumors, respectively. These energy beams can be directed to specific sites on the body to treat the patient. Radiation therapy works by sterilizing cells, which keeps them from being able to undergo successful division. This means a large tumor may not shrink immediately with RT. The cells will be sterilized, and will live out their natural life span. When they attempt to divide, they will be unable to do so and will die resulting in tumor shrinkage.
Radiation therapy is used to treat inoperable tumors that have not spread to other sites in the body. Like, surgery, this offers a potential cure for localized tumors. It may be combined with surgery or it may be combined with chemotherapy to address both local and systemic disease. Certain chemotherapy drugs act as radiation sensitizers and are used for their ability to enhance the effects of radiotherapy.
Radiation therapy in dogs and cat does NOT cause systemic side effects (tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea). Side effects of RT occur more often with curative attempts, and can be categorized in to acute and chronic problems. Acute injuries begin during or shortly after the completion of therapy. They arise in tissues within the RT field that are growing and dividing rapidly; the most common acute effects are skin problems that mimic a severe sunburn. Acute side effects will resolve with minimal nursing care and they are not considered to be does limiting.
Chronic side effects arise from damage to tissues within the RT field that are slowly renewing populations (i.e. bone, retina, brain). Clinical syndromes include the formation of bony sequestra, retinal lesions, brain cataracts and neurologic signs. Chronic side effects are dose limiting, veterinary protocols are designed to minimize long term problems.
Because pets cannot move during the MRI or CT scan, or during radiation therapy, they must be anesthetized during the procedure. While there are some risks inherent to anesthesia, at K-State's teaching hospital, anesthesia is supervised by board certified American College of Veterinary Anesthesiology specialists who carefully assess each patient prior to the procedure.