Echocardiography – the wild side

Performing echocardiography (ultrasound examination of the heart) is now so widespread that it might be called a routine procedure. But using the diagnostic technique is not always straightforward. What happens, for example, it the patient has feathers? Or a perhaps even a shell?

yolanda1Guidance for echocardiographing animals is at hand from Yolanda Martinez Pereira, LdaVt CertVC DipECVIM-CA MRCVS  [pictured, right] who writes (in the Royal Society of Medicine’s journal Ultrasound, May 2012 vol. 20 no. 2 pp.113-119)

“Modifications to the echocardiographic technique are necessary in order to obtain a feasible acoustic window in view of differences in visceral and skeletal anatomy, such as the shell in tortoises, air sacs in birds and encircling ribs in snakes. The presence of scales, feathers and fur also contribute to difficulties in obtaining diagnostic quality images.“

Dr. Pereira not only performs echocardiography on lions, jaguars and swans, but is also one of the very, very few researchers to have examined heart problems in a Komodo dragon. See: Pizzi R, Pereira YM, Rambaud YF, Strike T, Flach E, Rendle M, Routh A, ‘Secundum atrial septal defect in a Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis)’. Veterinary Record 2009;164:15 472-473