Diagnostic imaging

At the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, radiographic, ultrasonic and computed tomography scans as well as MRI scans are carried out with the help of the best equipment and staff available in Finland. Our unit employs veterinarians specialised in diagnostic imaging and radiographers specialised in veterinary imaging. Many scans are performed with the animal under sedation or anaesthesia. When necessary, scans can be taken with mobile equipment, for example, in operating rooms.

We also admit patients referred from elsewhere in Finland. Referral to diagnostic imaging at the Small Animal Hospital (in Finnish only) 

Radiographic examination is based on the radiation produced by the scanning device and the varying ability of the radiation to penetrate tissue, resulting in a two-dimensional image of the object. The Small Animal Hospital has digital X-ray scanning equipment at its disposal, which means that the X-ray images of all of our patients are stored in an electronic format.

Radiography is often the primary scanning technique used when examining a lame patient or pulmonary diseases. It is also utilised in examining a number of other states, such as suspected bowel obstructions caused by a foreign object or the abnormal rotation of the stomach (gastric volvulus). X-ray equipment can also be used for contrast examinations, which provide additional information on the condition of the oesophagus, among other things.

Several radiographies are performed at the Small Animal Hospital of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital every day, with the skeletal system, joints as well as the thoracic and abdominal cavities among the most common imaging objects. Procedures known as official skeletal surveys (hip and elbow joints, the spine) are also carried out at the Small Animal Hospital. Due to safety reasons, all individuals who are under 18 years of age or pregnant cannot be present at any radiographies performed on their pets.

Ultrasonic examinations at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital are performed by veterinarians specialised in imaging. The technique is based on sound waves emitted by an ultrasound probe and their reflection off of the tissues of the body. Ultrasonic examinations do not expose patients to X-rays. The Veterinary Teaching Hospital uses high-quality ultrasonic devices based on state-of-the-art technology.

At the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, computed tomography (CT) examinations are performed by veterinarians specialised in imaging and radiographers. Computed tomography applies X-ray technology, exposing patients to X-radiation during scanning. Computed tomography helps to produce accurate images of the object in the form of slices, making it possible to construct three-dimensional models of the object.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital has a rapid-functioning 64-slice CT scanner. Among the most common scanning objects are the skeletal system and joints, such as elbow and shoulder joints, the ears, the nasal cavity and the thoracic cavity. Computed tomography is also used to study liver vascularisation and developmental disorders associated with the urinary organs, as well as to assess the extent of cancer.

Certain scans are contrast enhanced, in which case the animal’s renal values are measured from a blood sample before scanning. Most CT examinations are performed with the animal under sedation or anaesthesia. When necessary, small patients with breathing difficulties can be scanned awake in a transparent container specifically designed for this purpose. Furthermore, due to the quickness of the scan, trauma patients in poor health can be scanned awake or under only a very light sedation.

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital uses a high-field magnetic resonance imaging device (1.5 T), which enables precise imaging. At the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, MRI scans are performed by veterinarians specialised in imaging (neurologists and veterinary specialists in diagnostic imaging) and radiographers.

In MR imaging, an image is formed of tissues by using a strong magnetic field. The technique is based on nuclear magnetic resonance and its observation. MRI scans are painless and do not expose patients to X-radiation.

MRI scans help produce accurate images of soft tissues, for example, in the region of the brain and the back. In fact, their primary use is in the examination of neurological diseases. MRI scans can also be used to examine the joints, the ocular region as well as the liver and the bile ducts in animals. Certain scans are performed as contrast-enhanced scans. MRI scans are performed under anaesthesia.

In the case of horses, radiographic examinations are the primary imaging technique for the skeletal system and joints. The most common scanning objects include the foreleg from below the shoulder joint and the back leg from below the knee. Often, the cervical spine, the back and the area of the head are also scanned. To identify any potential sand accumulation, the lower anterior region of the abdominal cavity can be scanned. Chest X-rays can also be taken. These scans are performed while the horse is standing, usually under sedation. In conjunction with surgeries, X-rays can alternatively be taken with a mobile device in the operating room. At the Equine Hospital, radiography is primarily performed by radiographers specialised in veterinary imaging.

The Equine Hospital has high-quality ultrasonic equipment at its disposal. In the case of horses, ultrasonic examinations are broadly used in diagnosing lameness and in the examination of internal organs. The most common targets of scanning include tendon-like structures and various types of soft tissue swelling, but many ultrasonic examinations of the abdominal and thoracic cavities as well as the heart are performed at the Equine Hospital as well. Usually, the site of examination is shaved. When necessary, the horse can be sedated. As a rule, examinations are performed by the veterinarian in charge of the patient.

The Equine Hospital has at its disposal a ‘foot magnet’, or a low-field MRI device, which enables the examination of the lower parts of the horse’s legs while the animal is standing upright. At this time, this is the only device of its kind in Finland. MRI scans are recommended for further examinations when lameness has been identified in the lower foot and other imaging techniques have not provided a clear diagnosis. MRI scans clearly show any damage to soft tissues, in addition to which internal alterations in the bone are identified. MR imaging is particularly suitable to examining the internal soft tissue structures of the hoof.

The hoof and the fetlock are the most common objects of MRI scans. Additionally, the upper attachment of the suspensory ligament, the knee and the hock can be scanned. During the procedure, the horse is sedated. The scanning of a single site takes approximately 45–60 minutes. Usually, two sites are scanned during one procedure.