MRI & CT Imaging

In order to best fit the needs of you and your pet, PVSEC is partnered with PetsDx Veterinary Imaging in providing MRI and CT scans. Working together, PVSEC and PetsDx use state-of-the-art, but more importantly, pet-safe technology, enabling our staff to clearly point out health concerns and quickly establish the best way to treat them. Using a high-field magnet dedicated specifically for veterinary use, results can be given in as little as 24 hours.

If we can't find what's troubling your pet on the surface, you can be sure the friendly veterinarians at PVSEC and PetsDx will perform a scan, locate the problem, and develop a plan to keep your pet healthy and happy. To find out more, please visit www.PetsDX.com.

Advanced imaging is becoming a necessary tool in veterinary medicine, so it's important that veterinarians and owners understand the technology of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Magnet strength

MRI's are measured in Tesla (magnetic strength). PVSEC has a 1.0 Tesla magnet. It is the same type of magnet that is still used in many human hospitals today. Many larger human hospitals have gone to 1.5 Tesla magnets or even larger for research. The largest approved magnet for use on humans is a 3.0 Tesla magnet. Many human insurance companies will not agree to pay for anything less than 1.0 Tesla because of lower diagnostic quality. Basically the stronger the magnet, the better quality of images and the faster the scan can be completed. Any magnet that is 1.0 Tesla or stronger is considered to be a "high field" magnet. Anything below 1.0 Tesla is considered "low field".

"Open" magnets versus "closed" magnets

PVSEC has a CLOSED magnet. Closed magnet: Think of a large 2 ft. diameter pipeline about 6-8 ft. in length. The area around you is closed and the magnet is all around the pipe on the outside.

Open magnet: More C-shaped so one side or area of the magnet is "open". There are only two reasons that open magnets were developed:

  • Claustrophobia in people.
  • Obesity

The technology of open magnets is not better! Open magnets can in fact miss things that a closed magnet will find. Obviously, one of the many reasons we have chosen a closed magnet. Also...all animals must be anesthetized for a MRI or even CT. No worries about claustrophobia there! ANY movement blurs the image. If your doctor sends you for a MRI and asks whether you want to go to an open or closed magnet, consider a sedative and have it done in a closed magnet. You are far better off.

A couple questions you might have:

Why is the magnet in a tractor trailer and not in the building? Putting a magnet this large into the building would have created a number of construction issues which would have drastically increased costs. The strength of this magnet, unless properly shielded, would have interfered with computer operation, anesthetic monitors, etc. The biggest reason that we have located it there is so we can upgrade at any time. We have already upgraded this magnet once (January 2009) to give us better quality images. We can hook to the trailer, pull it away and back another one in. With it located right against the building, it allows us to transfer patients easily to surgery, etc. Many times that allows us to put an animal under anesthesia for the MRI and then send it right to surgery so the patient does not have to undergo multiple anesthetic procedures. Plus, their stay in the hospital may be shorter.

How is my pet monitored? All patients are monitored with specialized equipment to watch their heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen level and blood pressure. These readings are recorded every few minutes in the patient record and changes are made as necessary. Any anesthesia carries a risk. Another reason that a thorough physical exam and blood work are required on all cases having advanced imaging performed.

Who operates the MRI? Our MRI is operated by a human MRI technologist licensed in both MRI and CT with over 22 years of experience. This allows us to make adjustments during the scan to make sure we get the best possible images.

How safe is it for my pet if the magnet is so strong? People have them done all the time. Yes...metal can be a problem. Pacemakers, insulin pumps, aneurysm clips, neurostimulation units, cochlear implants, etc. are definite NO-NO's. The magnet kills the battery. Anything located around the brain or heart made of metal could possibly move and we don't want that to happen. In animals, the majority of those things are very unusual but clients must fill out a form that asks those questions. Metal implants like pins and plates can be present as long as they have been in place for 6-8 weeks and things are healed. The bigger concern is that the metal causes and "artifact" and blurs out parts of the image. The PetsDx staff is very careful about who and what goes into the room with the magnet. Metal can be pulled into the magnet, even as small as a paper clip. PetsDx has done animal imaging EXCLUSIVELY for 5 years and patient safety is our highest concern!

What about my pet's microchip? Will it get sucked out of his body? NO!! The biggest concern with microchips is that they cause an artifact and blur an image of an area we are trying to image. The microchip can interfere with imaging of the neck. Owners should have the microchip scanned by their family veterinarian after the MRI to make sure it is still reading. We have had instances where the information is erased by the magnet: a minor complication compared to the patient being paralyzed by a ruptured disc.

Can't they do a MRI of the whole animal at once? No. It's like standing in the door and taking a picture of a car in the parking lot. Sure, you can read the license plate in the picture, but if I stand 2 feet from the car and take another picture of the license plate, I could see a tiny fly on the license plate. By concentrating the MRI on a particular area, we get that much greater detail: like zooming the lens of a camera. A MRI averages about 1 hour of time. If we did the whole animal, it would take 5-6 hours or more: Not advisable.

What is the cost of a MRI? The cost depends on the area of the body that is being imaged. Our MRI prices also include the anesthesia, the monitoring and the reading of the scan by a board-certified veterinary neurologist and/or a board-certified veterinary radiologist ALWAYS. During your consult, these topics will be discussed.

Bottom line....questions YOU need to ask: Is this a high field or low field magnet? High field is preferable. Is this an open or closed magnet? Closed is preferable.