VCA Veterinary Referral Associates

Spinal radiography and fluoroscopy

Radiography of the vertebral column

Following neurological examination, if the presenting problem is identified to be located in the spine, survey radiographs of the vertebral column (spine) can provide very important information. The vertebral column is composed of individual vertebra and each is slightly different in shape due to change in function at different levels of the column. There are seven cervical (neck) vertebra, thirteen thoracic vertebrae (chest), seven lumbar vertebrae (abdomen), three sacral vertebra- fused (pelvis), and multiple coccygeal vertebra (tail). Between each vertebra is an intervertebral disc which functions to allow restricted movement of the spine.

Radiographs are generally inexpensive, readily accessible, and are rapidly acquired. Radiography of the vertebral column is particularly useful when a disease or abnormality is of the vertebrae itself, or results in displacement of the vertebrae. Some examples of diseases include: malformations of the vertebrae, vertebral fractures or luxations, tumors (cancer) affecting the bone causing destruction or proliferation of bone, or bone infection causing loss of bone. Some diseases may cause mild changes to the bone or width of the intervertebral disc space such as intervertebral disc extrusion or protrusion. Care should be taken not to over interpret survey spinal radiographs in intervertebral disc disease. The utility of radiographs should not be underestimated especially where there is concern for column instability such as fracture or luxation.

Each vertebra has a complex three-dimensional shape, and yet imaging with radiography provides only two dimensional images of these complex structures. Consistency and care regarding the positioning of the patient and radiographic technique (x-ray beam energy) is essential because otherwise subtle abnormalities may be overlooked or normal structures may be misinterpreted as being abnormal. It is important to collect images in at least two planes (orthogonal): lateral (lying on the side) and dorsoventral (lying on the back), unless column instability is likely (trauma). Oblique images between these two orthogonal planes may also be used. To adequately position an animal, supportive devices such as foam pads may be required. Adequate sedation and pain control, or preferably, anesthesia is needed for good radiographs of the column. Manual restraint should not be performed as it is important that the technician not remain in the room when the radiograph is taken. Continued exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation (x-rays) is harmful, and for this reason, there is NO reason a technician should be exposed to the x-ray beam or scatter radiation.

Limitations of survey column radiography are that only the bony elements are adequately imaged; the spinal cord, nerve roots and meninges (covering spinal elements) are not able to be visualized. For this reason, additional advanced diagnostic techniques are used such as myelography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.

Departments

Diagnostic Imaging, Emergency/Critical Care, Neurology, Surgery
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General Practice

We have over 600 animal hospitals in 41 states and 4 Canadian provinces that are staffed by more than 3,000 fully-qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 400 being board-certified specialists.

The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments such as wellness, spay/neuter, advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, dermatology, cardiology, neurology, boarding, and grooming. Services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Emergency Care

Your emergency needs can be met right here at our hospital.
VCA Veterinarian Referral Associates provides 24 hour emergency veterinary care, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Emergency veterinarians, veterinary technicians and/or veterinary assistants are on staff 24 hours a day.

Please call us at 301-926-3300. We are located at 500 Perry Parkway. Gaithersburg, MD 20877.

We provide the highest standard in veterinary emergency and critical care services. We are trained and equipped to perform a variety of emergency surgeries and procedures. We provide the highest standards of pain management. Emergency internal medicine consultations, including full diagnostics, are available.

Please call or come in immediately if you feel your pet is having an emergency or needs after-hours care.
 

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