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continuing our series of articles on pet topics written by the vets and nurses of the Thrums Veterinary Group.

Happy New Year from all at Thrums Vet Group!

In the first of this year’s articles on pet topics, we will discuss the substantial advances that have taken place over the past few years in technology which have allowed us to enter the “digital age” with regard to veterinary radiography.

All of you will be aware what an X Ray looks like but what it actually is was summed up very neatly by an eight year old child who was having a guided tour of our surgery recently. She described it as a photograph of the inside of the body. A very neat and precise description!

X Rays have been used for diagnosis in both human and veterinary medicine for many decades and have proved invaluable in allowing us to plan treatments where we would have been left very much in the dark otherwise. Essentially the body is bombarded by a controlled beam of X Rays which then pass through it at variable rates until they hit the X Ray plate on the other side. Because different tissues in the body absorb X Rays at different rates, the resultant beam which hits the plate gives us a very good “photo” of the inside of the body.

Twenty or more years ago, we had to develop X Rays in a special dark room using an array of smelly chemicals. This process was time consuming, messy and more importantly relatively inaccurate. The quality of the resulting picture was dependant on many factors including temperature of the chemicals etc. The picture may have been ok to diagnose a broken limb but was often not good enough to show up the subtle changes which can often be helpful.

The next era was when we had the luxury of “automatic processors”. These were essentially based on the old principal of using chemicals but the machine took away both the guesswork and the mess and also speeded up the process. For a while we were in luxury! However, although the process was made much simpler, there were still factors which could affect the quality of the pictures and often we were left wishing that X Rays could be perfect 100% of the time!

Just over a year ago, we took the plunge and made a substantial investment in the latest digital X Ray technology. The results have been staggering and we now consistently take X Rays with clarity and detail which we could have only dreamed about before.

We can now zoom in on certain parts of the X Ray, manipulate images, measure angles, change contrast etc. all at the touch of a button. The benefits have been many fold. Not only are our diagnoses quicker and much more accurate than before but the patient also benefits from having to be sedated or anaesthetised for a much shorter time. Furthermore, in most cases they have to be exposed to less X Rays.

An additional and very valuable benefit has been that we can now e mail images to specialists around the country and get an opinion almost instantly. This has been particularly useful in the rapidly expanding equine side of our practice and it is now much easier to give an expert opinion on a complicated case without the lengthy wait which may have ensued before.

In conclusion, we are confident that the service we are able to provide with this new system represents a huge leap and although most of you will hope never to use it, you can be confident that if you do, you will have access to the very forefront of veterinary technology.