Written by Holly Johnson, MRCVS
Do you dread seeing “full abdominal scan” booked into the diary?
Do you turn to the x-ray machine as your first port of call for an ECC case?
In general practice, imaging is a diagnostic modality we cannot do without. The majority of us will have easy access to both radiography and ultrasound equipment. Having worked in general practice for the best part of 10 years, I can remember all too well that feeling of turning your ultrasound machine on and wishing I actually knew what all the buttons did, or even better, not feeling too scared to touch them for fear of breaking the equipment.
At BCF, we understand your need to be able to use the equipment you buy for your practice. Whilst a point and shoot approach can get you so far when taking radiographs, the same approach does not work with ultrasound. You cannot easily position the probe in one single place and gather the majority of the information required from one or two images in the way that you can with radiography. Equally, it is far more difficult to offer or obtain a second opinion of ultrasound images unless you are the operator of the equipment (hence the difficulty in getting an ultrasonography telemedicine consult).
So what can you find with a little bit more time, a patient dog and some knowledge of the physics of ultrasound? Well, quite a lot actually! Understanding your machine, it’s capabilities and limitations is the first step in giving yourself a fighting chance of interpreting ultrasound images. Most ultrasound machine functions are there to help, not hinder you. There are many different functionalities of modern machines that can help make ultrasound examination an easy and speedy process if necessary (we could all do with a little more time generally, right?)
Once you are confident manipulating the machine to your advantage then it’s all down to anatomy, recognition of normal and abnormal appearance and taking a logical approach. Getting into the habit of systematically examining your patients minimises the chance of missing things and helps build a mental reference library of the appearance of normal organs. We commonly stick to a set routine during a physical exam, why not during an ultrasound exam?
A practical CPD day can make all the difference; all the images below have been obtained by delegates at our practical courses.
Fig 1. Measurement of a stomach wall
Fig 2. Kidney, caudal vena cava and right adrenal gland
See, it’s easy! So why not come to one of our training courses? Once you get started you never know - you could end up being the vet everyone asks to scan their cases!