Neurology

Dr. MacKillop performs a brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test.

PVSEC recently expanded its neurology and neurosurgery services with the addition of a second neurologist, Dr. Kendra Mikoloski, who joins Dr. Edward MacKillop, as Western Pennsylvania's only board-certified neurologists.

The Neurology/Neurosurgery department employs numerous diagnostic technologies, including MRI/CT (provided on-site by PetsDx) and electrodiagnostic tools, such as BAER testing, to determine how to best treat both acute and chronic neurological disorders.

Appointments

Neurology appointments are scheduled upon referral from your pet's primary care veterinarian or recommendation from another PVSEC doctor or department. Appointments are generally scheduled Monday - Saturday mornings.  Diagnostics and treatments are normally scheduled for the afternoon of the same day as the initial consultation, but may also be scheduled for the following day.

Your pet's initial appointment will last approximately 45 minutes. Food should be withheld after 8:00 PM the night before the appointment. Water should be withheld after 8:00 AM the morning of the appointment. Please bring your pet's current medications and previous x-rays to the initial exam to assist in the doctor's diagnosis. For your convenience, forms may be downloaded and completed in advance:

HOURS: Monday - Friday 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM and Saturday 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM.

FeesShow

Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center is a unique veterinary hospital. There are fewer than 30 hospitals like us in the country. Because we are open 24 hours a day and provide specialized services in addition to emergency services, our fees for the care given and procedures performed may be higher than a normal veterinary visit.

We understand.

And that's why we make sure you are given an estimate during your initial visit. When you are dealing with a sick pet, the last thing you need is a surprise on your vet bill.

A deposit equal to the low end of the estimate is required for pets needing hospitalization. As we gather diagnostic information and assess response to treatment, we may find that your pet requires additional hospitalization and care. Our policy is to call the owners of all hospitalized patients once a day to inform them of the current charges. Estimates are updated when the charges start to exceed the high end of the initial estimate. We encourage you to ask questions so that you feel comfortable.

Pet owners may ask us for estimates to treat and diagnose their pet over the phone. Please understand that we are unable to give you an accurate estimate without first examining your pet at our facility. We feel that one of the most valuable services we can offer to you is the initial consultation with one of our veterinarians. The doctor will review the history with you, look over any prior medical records including laboratory work and radiographs, perform a complete physical examination and sometimes even consult with other specialists in the hospital. During the consultation we also want to determine your wishes and goals. We believe that this process is the best way to give you the most accurate information about your pets medical condition, the prognosis, options for care, and the costs associated with treatment.

Complete payment is due when your pet is discharged. We accept MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express and personal checks.  We also offer a Payment Management service through Payment Banc for qualified accounts.  You can find more information regarding Payment Banc by clicking HERE or calling the office to speak with a Customer Service Representative.  
If none of those methods are preferable, we offer third party financing through Care Credit. With Care Credit PVSEC offers 6 months deferred interest on charges over $200 or 24 months fixed rate interest on charges over $1000.
If you are interested in this option please visit the Care Credit Website to fill out an application. Type in our hospital name (Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center) and our phone number (412-366-3400) when it asks for your doctor's information. We accept two different plans from Care Credit so that you can make the best decision for your current financial position.
 

MRI information

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.