Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses a very strong magnetic fields and radio waves with precise (resonant) frequencies to move hydrogen atoms (widespread in water molecules) within body tissues. As the atoms are manipulated, they emit tiny radio frequencies that are picked up by small antennae around the patient, called receiving coils. A computer analyzes the radio frequencies and constructs cross-sectional images of your pet.
These images will allow your veterinarian to view the body at any angle of “slice,” and show soft tissues better than any x-ray technique. The highly detailed anatomical and physiological information provided by MRI is often used to look at the brain, spinal cord and nerves, muscles and joints, or other organs without the need for exposure to radiation.
The molecular alignment and movements that occur during the scan are on a sub-microscopic level, cannot be felt, and have no known harmful effects. The only hazard from the magnetic field and radio waves is interference with cardiac pacemakers or other radio controlled implants (ID chips are completely safe), which would make your pet ineligible for a scan. If you are not sure about metal objects in your pet, feel free to call us for advice.
The machinery in the scanner does make very loud, possibly frightening, noises during the radio pulsing, so people are given ear plugs during their scans. Your pet will receive the same ear protection, and will be fully anesthetized. We understand that any procedure can be a scary experience for humans and animals, and we will strive to minimize your little one’s stress by the use of appropriate anesthesia/sedation and a caring environment.
We use state of the art MRI-compatible anesthesia and monitoring equipment. These specialized devices allow close access to your pet, with monitoring displays inside and outside the scan room. During the scan, your pet’s pulse, respiratory oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, electrocardiograph, and blood pressure will be continuously assessed by a board-certified veterinarian as well as a veterinary technician. Before the scan, they will have reviewed pre-anesthesia lab work (CBC/chem panel) from your veterinarian to evaluate any pre-existing abnormalities. This allows them to choose the best anesthetic medications for your pet’s individual health status.
Because your pet must remain absolutely still during the scan, potentially up to 1 or 2 hours, anesthesia is necessary to insure a top quality study. Any anesthetic procedure involves some level of risk to the patient. They are generally low for our patients, but can vary with their age and individual medical status. That is why we obtain prior medical history and lab work from your veterinarian and discuss with them any potential anesthetic complications. Anesthesia risk is minimized in our facility by choosing the safest methods possible, and our state of the art anesthesia and monitoring equipment used by experienced and caring doctors and veterinary technicians.
Because your pet will be anesthetized for the MRI, it is best to withhold all food, including treats starting at 10PM the night before the MRI. Undigested food in the gastrointestinal tract can be a significant anesthesia risk. Water is permissible until 6 AM on the day of the procedure. Some medications can and should be given at their normal times, but others may affect anesthesia, so please check with your veterinarian whether they should be given the day of the MRI. Your pet will be given intravenous fluids before and during the scan, so unless there is a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, you do not need to be concerned about dehydration. Feel free to call us any time to ask about feeding or medications prior to the scan.
Your pet may go home after recovering from the anesthesia, and will probably have some degree of residual grogginess and/or nausea. We will advise you how to feed and water your pet for the rest of the day, after which you can return to your normal routine.
Your pet’s well being is very important to us, and the less time they spend under anesthesia, the easier it will be for them during the recovery/waking-up phase. We will prepare your pet for the procedure and care for them with the same discipline and seriousness of any complex surgical procedure. Because we want to avoid any possible distractions while we are fully focused on your pet and performing the scan expediently and properly, we ask that you do not accompany your pet into the scan or anesthesia area. The procedure will be completed much more rapidly when only trained staff is present.
You are welcome to wait in our comfortable waiting area during the procedure. If you wish to step out for a break or something to eat, we can contact you as soon as the scan is finished. Of course, we will be happy to let you wait with your pet until discharged, as soon as he or she wakes up.
A board-certified veterinary radiologist will view the scan in real-time and advise us as to which series (sets of images) to run in order to provide the most accurate image interpretation possible. After the scan is completed, our radiologist will give your veterinarian an immediate verbal “stat read” by phone and will also provide your doctor with a written report of the diagnosis within 24 hours. We will send your veterinarian a copy of the study images either directly to their practice server, or on a CD which we will give to you, along with a CD copy for yourself.
Since we are not involved with the treatment options for your pet, we believe it is best to discuss the actual results and next steps directly with your veterinarian. Therefore, we cannot discuss specific results with you at the time of discharge.
When your veterinarian or specialist recommends an MRI, they may contact us directly to set up an appointment, or they may have you call us (877 DOG SCAN) to schedule the appointment at your convenience. Your veterinarian will need to fax a Referral Form (which can be downloaded from our web site) and recent pre-anesthesia lab work (CBC/chem. panel) prior to your appointment. If your pet will be staying at your veterinarian’s practice, we can arrange transportation to and from our facility — you will just need to sign consent forms for the scan and transportation at your veterinarian’s practice.