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Medicine joins the British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS)

Author: Rebecca Littler, Head of Internal Medicine

I was recently honoured to be invited to speak at the British Medical Ultrasound Society meeting in Harrogate.

The inclusion of vets at the meeting is a new innovation and was well received with delegates from both the veterinary and human sonography world excited to learn how we can help and learn from one another.

My talk was titled ‘The uses and abuses of abdominal ultrasound in small animal medicine’. This concentrated on how we use specialist ultrasound in the diagnostic pathway for our patients, but also the pitfalls if this modality is not applied correctly. The talk discussed the role of ultrasound in a thorough investigation, i.e., where other tests were completed and ultrasound was answering a defined question.

The talk also considered being sure of the normal anatomy before scanning, e.g., empty stomach being mistaken for a gall bladder mucocele, and therefore reflecting on whether the clinical history fits what is seen on the scan.

Gall bladder mucocele
Empty stomach

We also considered whether abdominal ultrasound was the most appropriate test, i.e., if it was being given a chance to be of use. An example given was that of regurgitation as opposed to vomiting. It is easy to take the owners word that a patient is vomiting, when in fact a more passive process of regurgitation is occurring, meaning there will be no pathology demonstrated on an abdominal ultrasound scan.

Megaoesophagus shown in a thoracic radiograph in a regurgitating patient

This patient had undergone an abdominal ultrasound scan and reported as normal.

During the talk, we also explored where ultrasound can be useful, but that there are limits of the information it provides, e.g., many inflammatory bowel disease patients have a normal abdominal ultrasound. A normal ultrasound does not give a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease but leads to the need for intestinal biopsies in a patient with relevant clinical signs.

Normal ultrasound

The veterinary session generated lots of interest, especially among general practitioners keen to use ultrasound effectively within their practice and stimulated interest in the new training courses being run at NWVS.