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X-ray vision

by / Thursday, 16 February 2017 / Published in Education and Awareness, PRWC Happenings, WaterLine
Red-shouldered hawk with a wing fracture from a projectile

I spent the last week in Orlando at a veterinary conference.  Did you know that Orlando is Latin for “way too much traffic in one place?”  That may be an alternative fact, but I could believe it, and that seems to have become the hallmark for truth lately.  Not only is there too much traffic, but the people driving over there have no more clue how to use a turn signal than the drivers around here.  So, we are going to start today’s column with a driving lesson. 

Many modern vehicles have a tiny lever to the left of the steering wheel column that controls a flashing light near the front and rear bumpers.  When planning to turn or change lanes, the driver can press this lever down to signal a left turn or up to signal a right turn.  I am not making this up.  Most people are unaware of this little-known fact, but I’m hoping its use will catch on.

Aside from dodging vehicular traffic on International Drive and pedestrian traffic in the conference hall, I spent the week learning what veterinarians in the ivory towers of academia and research are spending money on.  Lots of money.  Apparently, some private practices that cater to rich people with pedigreed cats and dogs have some of the same fancy equipment.  It was pretty impressive.  They are ordering MRIs, myelograms, and ultrasounds.  They use digital x-rays, lasers, and computer programs specifically designed for their specialty practices.  Wow.  I have a stethoscope and a pen.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining.  I love working with wildlife and having Mother Nature as my number-one client, even if she doesn’t pay all that well.  And truth be told, I don’t think all of those extravagant tests necessarily result in any better answers than I get just by carefully observing my patients in many cases.  Even I have my limitations, though.  I cannot read minds (hence the plea for turn signal use) and I can’t see through solid objects.

PRWC got an automatic processor for our x-rays a couple years ago.  While not completely necessary, this was a huge step forward from the old-fashioned dip tanks that took a long time to process films and were a relative health hazard.  State-of-the-art medical practices started using automatic processors in the 1950’s and the general practitioners followed suit over the next few decades as prices got more reasonable.

As prices decrease even more, the veterinary community commonly follows along about a decade behind most medical advances.  This is the case with most medical equipment:  As new products are introduced, older technology gets cheaper.  While veterinary medicine follows that of human medicine by a decade or so, the non-profit world lags by quite a lot longer.

So, it is with great pride that I announce PRWC is finally making the leap into the 20th century.  (And, yes, I am well aware that many places in the rest of the world are living in the 21st century now, thank you very much.)  We are getting a digital x-ray machine at PRWC!

Not only will the images be of better quality, but the time it takes to get a good shot will be considerably decreased.  No longer will we have to keep critically ill animals under general anesthesia for extended periods of time while we take, develop, reposition, and repeat numerous times.  While getting our automatic processor made us feel like we went from crawling to skipping, our new digital x-ray machine will be like driving one of those flying cars we have all heard so much about.

The down side is, of course, the cost.  But with rapidly advancing radiographic technology, a machine that cost over $80,000 a few years ago, is now in the range of $20,000.  It’s still a considerable investment, but it will be one of the most useful tools available to us here at PRWC.  X-rays not only help us diagnose broken bones, but deep tissue infections, foreign bodies, and some nutritional deficiencies. 

A big nod of thanks to the company supplying the equipment, basically at their cost.  If anyone wants to help offset our cost even further, please send donations or call the office and let us know you want to donate toward our digital x-ray equipment.  We can take a picture of you with it to hang in your office.  (No, we really can’t.  I learned that at the conference also.)  But we will be eternally grateful.  And you will be helping to save lots of furry, feathery, and scaly lives.

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM

Gopher tortoise with a wired shell fracture and eggs in her abdomen

Gopher tortoise with a wired shell fracture and eggs in her abdomen

Bald eagle with multiple fractures of the wing

Bald eagle with multiple fractures of the wing

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