Computed tomography (CT) has long been used in human medicine, but has risen only recently to prominence in veterinary medicine. This rise is due primarily to the image quality advantages CT provides over conventional X-ray.
CTs are especially useful in standard veterinary applications when used to diagnose abnormalities in the nose, ear, brain, pelvis, lung, mediastinum, and the musculoskeletal system. (University of Minnesota) In many cases, CT imaging can provide information that cannot be obtained using radiography and ultrasound.
As the used and refurbished CT scanner market continues to grow, it is becoming more and more financially feasible for veterinary clinics to add a CT to their imaging stable. If you are considering adding a CT to your clinic, here are some questions to help you decide what CT will work well in your practice.
Will you image small or large animals?
As you select your CT, the size of your typical animal will affect the opening diameter and table weight you need. Unless you are scanning horses and pigs, a standard, 70cm gantry will work just fine. If you will routinely image large animals, consider a wide-bore scanner, which has a larger opening and will better accommodate large animals. Make sure you also note the table weight limit on any CT you consider.
Fixed or portable?
It is important to be able to serve all your patients with one CT unit – including the largest ones. That is why we recommend a fixed CT scanner instead of a portable one. We are asked about portable scanners often. Unfortunately, there are just no good options out there. Portable units are either older with poor quality, have bore sizes that are too small, or are prohibitively expensive.
Will you perform oncology studies?
If not, a 1-4 slice scanner will work just fine. If yes, a 16, 32, or 40-slice CT is ideal. Since 16 slices has been the market standard for many years, these systems are much easier to find on the market and often less expensive for your clinic. The increased slice count is useful for cancer diagnosis because it offers better resolution, making it possible to diagnose and assess the extent of the disease (Texas A&M). For example, a higher-slice count CT will more accurately measure the margins of a mass and allow for a greater chance of success in surgery and radiation therapy. (VetMedImaging.com)
Will you be diagnosing trauma cases?
A higher slice count is useful for trauma diagnosis because of quicker scan speeds and greater resolution. Time is of the essence in trauma cases, and so is a quick, accurate diagnosis of the trauma’s extent. CTs with a slice count of 16 or higher are ideal for trauma/emergency applications.
So what works best for standard veterinary use?
Vets tend to be the most cost-conscious of all buyers, as usually they are investing their own money in some way. With this in mind a 1-4 slice scanner can often work just fine for standard clinical practices that deal primarily with small animals. On the other hand, not all 1-4 slice scanners are the same. It's critical that you confirm parts availability and service costs before simply buying the cheapest option (as it may end up being the most expensive over time).
If you intend to work with larger animals, oncology, or trauma on a consistent basis, you may want to consider systems with larger bores and/or slice counts of 16 or higher.
Assessing the species you find in your case load most often and the types of studies that are a part of your routine can help you find the best CT scanner for your facility. If you have questions along the way, our CT experts can get you more information. Contact us to talk about your project or download our free CT Scanner Buyer's Guide.