Radiology FAQ


What is a board-certified veterinary radiologist?

A board-certified veterinary radiologist is a veterinarian who diagnoses diseases by obtaining and interpreting medical images such as radiographs, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs. In addition to completing undergraduate training and four years of veterinary school, a board-certified veterinary radiologist is similar to his/her human-medicine counterpart in that he/she has completed a residency in the specialized field of radiology (an additional 3-5 years training). In addition to this extensive training, a board-certified veterinary radiologist must pass two rigorous examinations to achieve board certification from the American College of Veterinary Radiology.

What is a radiograph?

A radiograph is commonly referred to as an x-ray.

What is digital radiography?

Digital radiography is a form of x-ray imaging, where digital x-ray sensors are used instead of traditional photographic film. Advantages include time efficiency through bypassing chemical processing and the ability to digitally transfer and enhance images. Also less radiation is used to produce an image of similar contrast to conventional radiography.

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a non-invasive, non-painful diagnostic tool that uses sound waves to image the internal architecture of many organs. Sound waves are directed by a probe and are reflected back to the probe by tissue. Ultrasound is effective in finding abnormalities in tissues, because diseased and inflamed tissue often reflect sound waves differently from the healthy surrounding tissues or normal tissues. Normally, ultrasound will be performed on your pet in conjunction with other diagnostic procedures (eg. blood work, radiographs, biopsies etc). Ultrasound by itself may not be definitive.

What can be seen with ultrasound?

Ultrasound is very sensitive to changes within abdominal organs and allows precise measurement of heart chamber size and cardiac function. Sonographic changes within abdominal organs are not specific; many disease processes can have a similar appearance on ultrasound examination. Often it is necessary to obtain a needle sample or guided biopsy to determine the exact nature of the changes observed during an ultrasound examination. In general, ultrasound and radiographs (i.e. x-rays) are complementary. In fact, in many cases we may request to take radiographs if not already done by your family veterinarian. Abdominal radiographs locate region(s) of change within the abdominal cavity and define changes in size, shape or density (e.g. regions of mineralization or gas production). Chest radiographs allow assessment of fluid build-up within the lungs and changes in the size and shape of the heart. As ultrasound cannot penetrate air filled structures or regions surrounded by air (i.e. the lungs), radiographs are a starting point to evaluate for heart failure or suspected masses within the chest.

What is an MRI?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that uses a powerful magnet and radiowaves to produce detailed images of the body’s organs and structures, without the use of X-rays or other radiation.

A computer converts signals from the MRI scan into cross-sectional images of the part of the body that has been scanned. Many images are obtained and each image is a slice of the body area scanned. The images produced by MRI can be compared to a sliced loaf of bread. Just as you can lift each individual slice from the loaf and see both the slice and the inside of the bread, so too the image “slices” produced by the MRI show the details of the inside of the body.

What should I expect at my pet’s ultrasound appointment?

Please see “Radiology appointment FAQ.”