During our radiology rotation, we spend three weeks honing our skills in different areas, including radiographs, ultrasound, and MRI. During the first week, we learned how to position patients to allow for the most diagnostic radiographs, adjust techniques in order to optimize contrast, and correct any problems that may arise. Whereas one patient may need to be sedated due to its inability to remain still on the x-ray table, another may be very compliant and positioned with ease and a few sandbags that prevent it from escaping from its carefully positioned location.
The process of restraining an animal, either mechanically or with chemical sedation, can be stressful. I always grimace when having to flip an already stressed patient onto its back into a ventrodorsal (VD) orientation. Imagine how scary it would be as a dog or cat to have two people be grabbing your limbs and putting heavy bags on top of you; I figure this could be one of the most traumatic events in the pet’s life. It’s almost as if I can see cortisol levels rising as the process unfolds. And so every time that we need to restrain an animal, I try to get him or her as comfortable as possible. This may be an exercise in futility as some patients will work themselves into a fit, and no amount of petting or verbal comforting will change the patient’s behavior. That said, it is important for us to know that despite us “terrorizing” animals in the short-term, we can take solace in the fact that the radiographs taken could be life-saving.