X-rays, MRI, CT, Ultrasound and Scintigraphy Use in Cat Medical Care


Scintigraphy is thousands of times more sensitive than regular radiology. It’s great for imaging tumors and changes in bone. It provides functional, not structural, images and works well to check kidney function or blood flow patterns.

Advantages of Nuclear Medicine

  • This technology is extremely sensitive.
  • “It’s perfect for osteosarcoma,” Muhlbauer says. “It’ll pick up when a billionth of a gram has changed in the bone.”

    Limitations of Nuclear Medicine

  • It’s not very specific and can tell you something is going on, but not exactly where.
  • Nuclear medicine requires expensive / special rooms and protocols for handling the radioactive isotopes.
  • Advances in Veterinary Imaging

    I asked Muhlbauer if there were any blind spots – any places inside a cat’s body that veterinary radiologists cannot see. He replied, “I would say no.”

    He then added: “I was listening to a surgeon talk the other day, and they asked him what [is] the biggest change in surgery of the last 50 years. [H]e said it was diagnostic imaging. In the past, we’d have to go inside and take a look. Now, we can use these machines to take a look inside and not have to cut the patient at all.”

    So, how do veterinarians decide what imaging to use and when? Muhlbauer explains: “If an animal comes in with a complaint and needs imaging, the first thing I would do is x-ray. If I don’t get an answer with an x-ray and it’s something [related to] soft tissue, I’d go to an ultrasound….If it’s something in the lung or in bone that I cannot see, like a skull fracture, then I would next go to CT. If it were something neurological – seizures or intervertebral disc disease- I would go to MRI … I would not jump right to a CT without having x-rays first. A lot of times, x-rays give you the answer, and that saves a lot of money and a lot of stress on the patient and client.”


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