Dec 152009
 
Authors: David Martinez

Since the start of the month, CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital improved and installed two unique machines that will help to improve diagnostic capabilities.

The hospital updated its existing gamma ray camera and acquired a veterinary PET/CT scanner — the first in the world to be modified for veterinary use and to be installed on a college campus — to its list of machines used for diagnosing animal medical problems.

Veterinarians use the gamma ray camera to conduct exams on large animals with impaired mobility. The PET/CT scanner will be used for cancer treatment, detection of cancer growth and surgical and radiation treatment planning.

Because the department has only worked with the machine for a couple weeks, vets have only used the scanner to detect cancerous growths in their animal patients.

“The university’s ability to remain a leader in veterinary medicine and cancer research depends upon its ability to stay on the cutting-edge of technology and knowledge,” CSU President Tony Frank said in a press release.

“This new system provides another avenue for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital to offer animals the best treatment available while greatly enhancing our ability to treat — and save lives — of people and animals with diseases such as cancer.”

The existing gamma ray camera recently received new imaging equipment and a remodeled exam area to help facilitate large animal exams. Once vets inject a small dose of radioactive material into an animal, they can now see higher quality pictures that point out weaknesses in an animal’s skeleton.

With the camera, veterinarians can acquire the image of a horse’s skeleton in fewer than two hours.

The new PET/CT scanner combines images to better find and diagnose cancer and tumors in animals of various sizes. After introducing an anesthetic, the CT scanner creates a three-dimensional image of the animal’s anatomy while the PET scanner finds problem areas, such as cancer cells.

With this system, we can match the metabolic activity to the anatomy of the animal,” said Debra Gibbons, a radiology specialist at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Both machines require patients to be injected with radiation, but Gibbons said that the doses required are not harmful to the patients. The dose of radiation given to a dog during either exam compares to the dose that doctors would give children for a standard PET/CT scan.

However, veterinarians still take precautions when working with patients as they expose themselves to the treatment on a regular basis.

While both machines operate at a high cost (no specific costs could be found), donations and services to hospital patients have lessened the costs.

Presently, veterinarians have used the PET/CT scanner to scan five dog patients, but they want to take these diagnoses step by step as they increase their knowledge base.

CSU vets received help from radiologists at the Poudre Valley Health Center, who have worked with human PET/CT scanners. They are also receiving help from veterinarians at the University of Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin who operate similar equipment outside of their campuses.

However, veterinarians at CSU are still taking their time in diagnosing the animals while they learn to use the scanner and interpret the information it provides.

Gibbons voiced appreciation for having both machines on campus. However, she expressed greater enthusiasm for the animal PET/CT scanner.

While the scanner has required long hours of research and communication with other researchers, she said that it has presented a fun challenge.

“It’s very new to vet medicine, so we’re all very excited to have it.”

Staff writer David Martinez can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 7:46 am

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