Introduction: Technology has afforded the veterinarian access to several procedures, collectively known as diagnostic imaging techniques, which are useful for seeing inside the body. One of the most common of these techniques is the use of ultrasound. Ultrasound allows the clinician to look beyond the skin surface to help find clues that can lead to answers or a diagnosis.

Description: The ultrasound is an electronic device that uses sound waves to obtain pictures of the body. These ultrasonic sound waves are generated by a transducer and projected into tissue. As the waves hit different structures and are bounced back to the transducer, an image is produced. Different structures send back different signals to the transducer. For example, bone is very dense and most of the sound waves completely bounce off the bone. Bone and other dense structures usually appear white on the ultrasound. On the other hand, fluids appear "see through" or dark on an ultrasound, as most of the sound waves pass through the liquid. Other organs and tissues have their own unique combinations of dark and light tones based on their density and the way they reflect these sound waves back to the transducer.

Many diseases and problems can be identified by using an ultrasound machine. Some situations where an ultrasound examination may be beneficial include the following:

  1. Evaluating abdominal problems (kidney, bladder, and liver disease).
  2. Determining if an animal is pregnant.
  3. Examining the heart (echocardiography).
  4. Guiding a biopsy instrument to collect a tissue or urine sample.
  5. Evaluating certain eye problems.
  6. Diagnosing some brain disorders in puppies (if the "soft spot" is open).

Diagnostic Value: Very high, because many conditions can be correctly detected and/or diagnosed using an ultrasound.

Risk to Patient: Risks to patients vary because of numerous factors. Sedation may be required for some dogs. Positioning may be uncomfortable or even dangerous for critical patients. When a biopsy is taken, additional risks are involved because the biopsy instrument may cause bleeding or could potentially spread infection.

Relative Cost: Moderate to high, depending on the extent of the exam and experience of the operator.

A portable ultrasound machine