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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 xray 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 like myelography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.

Neurology

What Is Veterinary Neurology?

Veterinary Neurology is the branch of medicine that treats diseases of the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles in pets. This encompasses such common problems as epilepsy, herniated disks, spinal and head injuries, meningitis, and cancers of the nervous system. A board certified veterinary neurologist is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained additional intensive training in veterinary neurology and has been certified by either the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) in the United States or the European College of Veterinary Neurology (ECVN) in Europe to specialize in veterinary neurology.

While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases and conditions require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in veterinary neurology in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet.

Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Neurologist?

Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs a veterinary neurologist to help diagnose or treat a problem. While your general practitioner veterinarian can handle many aspects of your pet's care, just as in human medicine, there is sometimes a need for the attention of a specialist. You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet for more specialized diagnostic work or treatment is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her condition.

Specifically, veterinary neurologists can provide the following:

  • A thorough neurologic examination, which may be videotaped for future reference.
  • Brain and spinal cord imaging, including CT and bone scans, MRI, ultrasound, myelography, and radiography.
  • Spinal fluid tap and analysis.
  • Intensive care.
  • Neurosurgery of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerve system.
  • Electrophysiologic examination of nerves and muscles.
  • Knowledge of clinical trials available to pets with specific neurologic disorders.

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

In many cases, your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's veterinary care, especially if your pet is coping with multiple disease states or conditions. In other cases, your referral doctor will take over the majority of your pet's medical care for the duration of its referred treatment. It depends on your pet's particular problem.

Did You Know?

  • In an emergency, the safest way to transport a seizuring or unconscious pet to its veterinarian, for both you and the pet, is in an airline crate.
  • There are less than 100 veterinary neurologists in the United States today.
  • Seizures are the most common neurological problem in companion animals.
  • Intervertebral disk disease is the most common spinal cord problem in dogs.

Our Neurology Services

BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potential) Testing
Brain and Spinal MRI
Cerebrospinal Fluid Collection and Analysis
CT Myelography

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