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Back to Latest Australian Pet Industry News

MRI just for pets: Taking pet care to a new level

Caroline Zambrano, Sydney October 2011

Our pets can now receive the same level of care that their human family members receive in hospitals thanks to the recently installed high field MRI machine, specifically designed for companion animals, at the Animal Referral Hospital (ARH) in Sydney.

Dr. David Simpson ARH Vet

This is the first high field (magnet) MRI for animals in NSW with technology equivalent to those in human hospitals in Australia. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) enables the examination of detailed structures within the body, particularly the spine, brain and head, and diagnosis of conditions that would otherwise be impossible without invasive surgery.

This was the case with a distressed Maltese cross dog that stumbled into Dr David Simpson’s consult room at the ARH, falling over his little paws as he continuously circled to the left. The dog’s right facial nerve was not functioning and he had an altered, higher pitched bark, Dr Simpson says. He further performed a number of tests but could not reach a clear diagnosis.

“An MRI instantly showed a tumour on the brain stem, and because surgery to remove the mass was too risky due to the location, the owners decided on radiation therapy. The dog was eventually cancer free,” he says.

With an MRI, veterinarians can easily investigate dogs with hard-to-diagnose brain tumours and seizures, spinal nerve damage, shoulder joint tears and cruciate ligament ruptures, among other problems.

“Every veterinary service (such as oncology, surgery, medicine and emergency) benefits from having access to an MRI,” Dr Simpson says. “If your dog suddenly becomes paralysed or starts seizuring, you need accurate information for the right treatment. An MRI can give you that accuracy.”

MRI is also covered by pet insurance, making the service affordable to many pet owners.

MRI at the ARH

In the past, patients have not had immediate access to an MRI as veterinarians have relied on access to human facilities. This is especially a problem for critically ill patients, says Troy James, General Manager of the ARH.

“One would have to wait sometimes days to get access to the human hospital facilities,” he says. “The new MRI installation at the ARH means veterinary staff, anaesthetic and monitoring equipment will no longer need to be transported with the patient to a human facility. This saves valuable time and resources and is much better for the patient.”

Now, an MRI at the ARH will be accessible 24/7 to ARH patients and all other veterinary hospitals in the Sydney area as referrals.

“The introduction of our new external referral service now means that veterinarians will be able to simply request an MRI and have the results sent back to themselves for diagnosis and treatment,” Mr James says. “It’s the equivalent of when your GP sends you to get an MRI.”

The ARH has access to specialist veterinary radiologists around the world, allowing efficient and timely reporting on all MRI images, whatever time they are taken.

What is high field MRI?

The ARH has the first high field (magnet) MRI for animals in NSW with technology equivalent to those in human hospitals in Australia. “This means it is higher in strength to generate better images and works faster so we receive results more quickly (compared to low field magnet MRIs),” Dr Simpson says.

An MRI uses powerful magnetic and radio waves to create pictures of the body and is particularly useful for looking at soft tissue structures. Whereas a CT scan machine (also at the ARH) uses radiation (x-rays) and is great at imaging bone structures as well as some soft tissue problems, explains Dr Simpson.

The MRI and CT machines (along with digital radiography and ultrasound) provide ARH patients with a comprehensive imaging service and the right scan can be picked for each patient’s problem, he says.

The ARH has also recently updated its CT scan machine as part of its relocation in November last year to new premises in Homebush. The ARH was the first to install this technology in Sydney in 2005.

“MRI and CT scans give us the best chance of diagnosis and treatment,” Dr Simpson says. “Thanks to both, we can fully investigate veterinary cases as far as possible and to the level achieved in human medicine, and provide our patients with the best possible outcome.”

About the Animal Referral Hospital

The Animal Referral Hospital is the largest privately owned, 24-hour veterinary hospital in the southern hemisphere, offering pet owners an improved level of service with specialist care and advanced veterinary technology in a state-of-the-art facility.

The ARH in Homebush can also accommodate pet owners who travel from the country and interstate at a hotel adjacent to the site – a short walk from Sydney’s famous Paddy’s Market.

The ARH in Baulkham Hills has been renovated with additional hospital and laboratory equipment to provide accurate and rapid results and provide an increased level of patient and client care, serving the West and Blue Mountains. The ARH currently employs nearly 100 staff over the two sites, including but not limited to general veterinarians, specialists and emergency nurses.

For more information or media interviews
Troy James
General Manager
Animal Referral Hospital

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