Not long ago most types of imaging equipment were reserved for humans. If a scan was to be performed on a family pet, an X-ray was about as far as most veterinarians would go. Now, with an increasing number of animal owners willing to spend whatever it takes to get their pets the best care, more and more vet facilities have integrated full-on radiology departments into their practice.
We recently partnered with a vet center on a cath lab installation, which turned out to be just one in a full stable of systems running in their facility. Ultrasound, X-ray, C-arm, CT, MRI, nuclear camera, and even a linear accelerator, are all installed and scanning patients on a regular basis.
With interest like this on the rise, "What's the best cath lab for veterinary use?" has become a regular question for our team. In the next few paragraphs, we'll share our take on the question and give you a few considerations to keep in mind as you shop for your veterinary cath lab system.
What to Consider for a Veterinary Cath Lab
While the cost of equipment is the bulk of a cath lab project's cost, the site planning involved accounts for most of the remainder. This is especially true for systems that are mounted from the ceiling.
Because vets don't have access to the reimbursement dollars that keep human labs running, it's helpful to find savings wherever you can. In order to keep overall costs down, a floor-mounted cath lab is a better choice for a vet facility. Without the need to suspend 3,000 pounds from your facility's ceiling, a good deal of construction cost is removed from the project.
It's easy to see why one might think a large detector would be better for working with larger animals, but that’s not necessarily the case. The choice of detector size is based on procedure type and anatomical focus. In human medicine, a cath system used for cardiac imaging has a smaller detector than one used for abdominal or bilateral leg imaging. In veterinary medicine, since there’s usually only one system from each modality in a facility, systems are geared more for general use. A mid-to-large detector size offers this kind of procedural flexibility.
While it can be tempting to shop brand-new equipment with the latest and greatest features, this is not often practical for vets. Choosing a good refurbished system will save significant funds over buying new. In some cases, refurbished equipment buyers save $800,000 - $1,000,000.
Parts Availability and Serviceability
At some point any cath lab will have an issue and require engineering support and spare parts to fix it. When it comes to finding engineers and parts, some makes and models have it easier (and cheaper) than others. To use an automotive analogy- your local garage probably has more mechanics and parts for a Chevy than a Tesla, and the respective price for repairs is going to reflect that.
GE cath is among the easiest to service and there are more engineers that know these systems than any others. Conversely, Philips is known to be more difficult to work on and there are fewer engineers in the field that know these systems. Add in the need for a Philips service key, and they can be downright challenging to work on. Because of this difference, we usually recommend GE labs when vets contact us for cath labs.
To recap, we suggest vets purchase a cath lab that is floor-mounted, has a medium-to-large detector, is refurbished, and is manufactured by GE. So, which specific models fit the bill? Our recommendation for veterinary cath labs are the GE Innova 3100 IQ or Innova 4100 IQ.
If your facility is considering adding a cath lab to your stable of veterinary imaging modalities, we’d love to assist you in finding the very best equipment fit for your needs. Click below to tell us about your project and how we can help.