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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

At Donnington Grove we are equipped with an on-site Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner. This is a very modern diagnostic tool available in only a few practices in this country. This machine was acquired from Hallmarq with our Equine department in mind but is also available for use by the small animal department.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses powerful magnetic fields and sensitive magnetic detectors to resonate hydrogen atoms within the body and to detect their response. A powerful computer then converts this into an image which allows us to look at fine slices through the tissues of the animal.

This is a powerful diagnostic tool allowing both bone and soft-tissue to be examined together. It gives us the ability to image structures which radiography and ultrasound cannot, especially in the nervous system, allowing us to view the brain and spinal cord.

In some cases a harmless MRI contrast material is used to help identify tissues. The uptake of this material can help to identify the nature of lesions or to highlight them.

Although a very useful tool for the small animal department, the MRI scanner at Donnington Grove has some limitations. The MRI scanner is not as powerful as the large 'donut' shaped scanners which you may have seen and this affects the level of detail and amount of tissue which can be examined at a time. Also there is a physical limitation to the size of coils which will fit in the magnet and if a body part does not fit in a coil, it cannot be scanned.

Consequently, if your animal requires an MRI scan, we may still recommend referral to a larger machine if that is appropriate for your animal.

MRI is an expensive technique at present, so although its uses are many, it is usually reserved for those cases where nothing else will give us the answer.

Cat head with middle ear disease (on left)The MRI suiteMRI of cat with a brain tumour