Computed Tomography

Computed tomography uses x rays to create cross-sectional images of areas of the patient being evaluated. The contrast between tissues is greatly enhanced with computed tomography over the conventional x-ray examination and there is no superimposition of tissues to create confusing shadows.

Detail of the bony structures is greatly enhanced with computed tomography. Evaluation of the nasal passages and orbits as well as assessment of trauma to the skull and spinal canal are common examples of the use of computed tomography at Auburn.

Many times computed tomography is used to assess spinal cord compression by disc protrusions or other lesions.

Computed tomography images are also used to assess extent of disease and plan for radiation therapy in patients with cancer. 

Computed tomography images are linked to the central computer for storage and the images can be viewed hospital wide.

Digital Radiology

Digital radiology is the acquisition of radiographic images in a digital format that are displayed on a computer screen rather than being printed on radiographic film and viewed on a light box.

The digital images can be manipulated in ways such as to change the contrast of the tissues or magnify certain areas not possible on traditional images.  This allows the radiologists and clinicians to better evaluate the area that is being examined.

The digital imaging system at Auburn University allows the viewing of the radiographic image in as little as 4 seconds. This decreases the time the patient needs to be in radiology and therefore if the patient required sedation or anesthesia for the procedure, greatly decreases the length of sedation or anesthesia time. 

So digital radiology will benefit your pet by allowing faster examinations and better quality images for evaluation by the radiologist. 

There are two direct readout digital radiology systems in the small animal hospital and one direct readout digital system in the large animal hospital.  All of the images are stored on a central computer allowing the images to be viewed on all computers in both hospitals.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-section images of our patients.

This technology creates a very detailed image of the brain and spinal cord and has become almost essential when evaluating problems from these areas.

The precise localization of the cause of the problems by our neurologists allows the evaluation of the brain or certain sections of the spinal cord for problems that could not otherwise be diagnosed without surgery.

We are learning additional ways in which MRI can help our patients that are similar in the human field and include cardiac and abdominal organ evaluation.  These images are stored in a central hospital computer and can be viewed hospital wide.

Nuclear Medicine

Many times a patient (especially our equine patients) is presented with a lameness that is difficult to localize because our patients cannot tell us where they hurt and may not show discomfort in our physical exam.

In order to focus our examination and determine what other diagnostic procedures that  need to be done, we may need a nuclear medicine scan.  This involves injecting a short acting radioactive agent that may indicate an abnormal area of soft tissue or abnormal area of bone.

Images of the body are recorded using a gamma camera. This type of examination is very sensitive to subtle disease processes and may be able to localize the problem area and allow us to use other diagnostic procedures to pinpoint the cause of the problem. 

Nuclear medicine scans can also be used to evaluate for thyroid, kidney, pulmonary and liver abnormalities. The patients usually have to be in isolation for about 2 days but then can return to their normal stall areas. 

Radiation Therapy with Linear Accelerator

The linear accelerator uses high energy focused x-ray beams to treat many types of cancer.

Cancer within the nasal passages and oral cavity, cancer involving the extremities and feline fibrosarcomas are all treated diseases.

As in human medicine, multiple treatments are required to deliver the effective dose in controlling these cancers.

The linear accelerator equipment is capable of delivering the prescribed dose within precise limits in a short amount of time. Patients usually have to be sedated for the treatment but because of the linear accelerator there is usually a very short period of time needed for sedation. 

A radiation therapy planning software using computed tomography or magnetic resonance images is utilized to provide precise radiation doses to the cancerous tissue.


Ultrasound uses sound waves to noninvasively evaluate the abdominal organs and the heart. This technology is a routine diagnostic tool that complements radiographic examination and allows better evaluation of the internal structures of these organs.

Ultrasound is also used to evaluate the eye and surrounding structures as well as soft tissues around the spine and extremities. 

Ultrasound examination of the tendons and muscles of the legs of horses is also a valuable tool for lameness evaluation. 

Very detailed cross-sectional images can be obtained for preliminary diagnosis, as well as guidance for biopsy for more definitive findings.

Ultrasound is essential for the best evaluation of cardiac problems such as congenital diseases and acquired problems in diagnosis older patients. 

© 2009 Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine