What to Consider When Choosing a CT Scanner for Your Veterinary Clinic

CT scanners are commonly used in hospitals and diagnostic imaging centers to help diagnose a large variety of conditions. They give doctors the ability to render 3D images of their patients’ bones, soft tissues, blood vessels and more to diagnose everything from bone fractures and internal injuries to cancer and heart disease. Animals often suffer from the same types of injuries and illnesses, and CT scanners can be extremely beneficial to veterinary clinics as well. However, before you decide to invest in a veterinary CT scanner, there are a few things you will want to consider.

Veterinary Uses for CT Scanner?

CT scanners can be very useful to help diagnose and treat many common and less common conditions affecting animals. The following are a few of the ways in which a CT scanner can be used by a veterinary clinic:

  • Identifyingcancer – CT scans can help veterinarians identify or rule out the metastasis of a variety of cancers. They also help with pinpointing the exact location of tumors to help with surgical planning. CT scans are particularly helpful for this reason when it comes to liver and pulmonary tumors.
  • Nasal disease – The most common reason that veterinary clinics use CT scans is to identify nasal disease in cats and dogs suffering from chronic nasal discharge.
  • Orthopedic abnormalities – CT scans allow veterinarians to gain a better understanding of any orthopedic abnormalities an animal might have, such as elbow dysplasia, medial patellar luxation, congenital hip deformity, or hip dysplasia. This understanding allows veterinarians to more effectively plan for corrective procedures.
  • Poly-trauma – CT scans help to identify the severity of various injuries, which is especially beneficial when it comes to the damage of multiple organs and systems.

There are a few types of conditions in animals that CT scans are not ideal for. For example, most CT scans don’t provide high-quality images to identify or track neurological conditions, such as diseases of the brain and spinal cord.

What is the Difference Between a CT Scanner for Animals and Humans?

While CT scanners may have different size and weight limitations, the technology is the same. Animals have very similar internal structures and systems as humans. Any CT scanner can be used for both animal and human patients.

What Kind of Animals Do You Treat?

There are a variety of different CT scanners for animals that are built to accommodate different types of animals. For example, standard veterinary CT scanners are effective for animals like larger dogs, while mobile CT scanners are smaller and may only be useful for smaller dogs and cats.

If you treat a lot of farm animals, such as pigs and horses, you will need a much larger machine. A veterinary CT scanner with a gantry bore (which has a diameter of 70 cm) may be appropriate. There are specialized veterinary CT scanners available as well, such as CT scanners built specifically for scanning standing horses.

 Where Will You Treat Your Patients?

Where you treat your patients will affect what type of CT scanner you need. If you plan to do scans inside of your clinic, a regular CT scanner is appropriate; however, if you travel to your patients–for example, you go out to different farms to scan farm animals — you’ll need a mobile CT scanner, which is installed inside of a trailer.

 Space is also a factor. CT scanners require their own rooms for safety purposes. The room housing a traditional scanner will need to be at least 14×20 feet and will need to be lined with lead to help keep the radiation the system produces within the room. Additionally, you will need to set up an adjacent control room that’s at least 14×7 feet. If you don’t have the space available in your clinic for a regular sized CT scanner, you may want to opt for a portable scanner even if you are performing your scans inside your clinic.

 What Type Of Studies Will You Perform?

The type of studies you’ll be performing will determine the quality of CT scanner that you need. For example, you may need it to capture digital X-rays as well as to perform fluoroscopies, in which case, you’ll want a multi-modality device.

If you plan to use your CT scanner for more than just identifying bone fractures, such as helping to identify diseases (such as cancer) then you’ll want a high slice count CT scanner. If your veterinary clinic focuses more on providing dental treatment to animals, consider a cone beam CT scanner.

Cost Considerations

Choosing to buy a veterinary CT scanner is no small investment. Begin by  carefully considering your clinic’s budget. Veterinary CT scanners can cost as little as $150,000 to over $1 million depending on numerous factors, such as what type of CT scanner you’re buying and whether you’re purchasing the system new or refurbished.

 The initial cost of the system isn’t the only thing to consider. Installing a CT scanner will be expensive since it will need its own lead-lined room along with specific electric requirements. For example, fixed CT scanners typically require three-phase 480V, 150kVA transformers, costing upwards of $10,000 to install. While lead-lined drywall isn’t too expensive, it can still cost upwards of $10 per square foot.

These are just system and installation costs. There will be continual costs to keep in mind, such as your energy costs (which will without a doubt go up significantly with the regular use of a CT scanner) and routine maintenance and repair costs.

Purchase Considerations

As important as the type of CT scanner you buy is who you buy it from. Purchase your scanner from a provider that offers all of the services you’ll need, including site planning, delivery, and installation. Unless you have staff on hand that knows how to use the exact CT scanner you’re buying, you will need applications training as well.

As for warranties, most CT scanners will include a one-year warranty, which you may want to extend. Doing so will usually cost between $40,000 and $75,000 a year. It’s important that you read through the warranty being offered–not all plans include the same kind of coverage.

A maintenance plan will also be required. You can do this through the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) if you are purchasing a new system. You can also choose to go through a third party. Find a maintenance plan that includes preventative maintenance to help ensure that your system stays in good working condition for as long as possible.

Finally, look into the provider’s reputation. Ask for references–they should be able to provide you with the contact information of other veterinary clinics who they sold CT scanners to that can give you valuable information about the quality of the systems they sold as well as the quality of their customer service.

Benefits to Having A CT Scanner in Your Clinic

The biggest advantage of having a veterinary CT scanner is the increased ability to diagnose certain conditions. CT scanners are also extremely helpful if you perform veterinary surgical procedures at your clinic as they help you better plan for your surgeries, reduce operation times, and increase the chance of success. Having a CT scanner should help you bring in more customers as well, especially since you won’t have to refer existing patients to other clinics for scanning. Although the cost of a CT scanner isn’t small, the average scanning fee is $800, which means it can easily pay for itself if used regularly.

The benefits of a CT scanner will depend heavily on the type of patients you see, and whether you need to perform CT scans to treat them.