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The next time Fido falls and is limping or Fluffy has failed to keep down her food, you may find your veterinarian using digital X-ray - a new radiographic technology - to help better diagnose the problem.
This diagnostic tool initially was used exclusively in human medicine and later at specialty animal facilities or universities but is now available to the general veterinary practitioner.
There are many benefits to digital radiology for pet owners. The equipment allows the veterinary team to capture a high-resolution radiograph and view it on the computer within seconds. That means pet owners can see the images during exams. Dark and light adjustments can be made to the computer image to make certain tissues more or less visible. Areas can also be magnified and labeled. Images can be sent electronically to referral facilities for consultations, and copies can be downloaded onto CDs for clients to keep.
Several of the systems allow images to be stored in a DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine) compatible format. This is the same permanent archive system that is used to store and transfer radiographs in human medicine.
In addition to improved speed and image quality, digital X-ray is also safer and easier for the veterinary technical staff. Because shading adjustments can be made on the image, fewer exposures are needed, so there is less exposure to harmful X-rays for the veterinary assistants and patients as well.
Veterinarians know immediately if additional X-ray views are needed, and additional radiographs can be taken while the patient is still on the X-ray table. The images are saved in each patient's computer file and can be accessed easily at any time; there is no need for large storage areas, and the X-rays can't get misplaced.
Images also can be compared side by side to track the progress of a fracture or disease process. The radiograph can be viewed simultaneously in multiple places. And there is no longer any need for X-ray film and dark room developing, thus it is environmentally friendly. So next time Fido or Fluffy is hurt or ill, find out if your veterinary practitioner is using digital X-ray for your companions. It's better medicine, and it's better for the environment.
Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic in Stockton. Contact her at .