Shanaman MM, Hartman SK, O’Brien RT.
Canine patients with acute abdominal signs are often clinically unstable and need a rapid and accurate diagnosis. Contrast-enhanced multi-detector computed tomography (CT) is the current modality of choice for evaluating acute abdominal pain in people. We hypothesized that contrast-enhanced multi-detector CT would be a feasible and safe technique for use in awake and lightly sedated dogs with acute abdominal signs. Eighteen client-owned dogs were enrolled, all presenting with acute abdominal signs. Dogs were scanned using a dual-phase protocol that included precontrast, arterial, and portal venous phases. Eight dogs were scanned awake and ten were given light sedation as chosen by the primary care clinician. Two observers who were unaware of clinical findings and sedation status scored image quality for each scan by consensus opinion. Mean serum creatinine in the sedated group was higher than in the awake group but was within the normal reference range. Other laboratory and physiologic measures did not differ between awake and sedated groups. No IV contrast-related adverse reactions were seen. Median scan time for all patients was less than 10 min. Sixteen of 18 contrast-enhanced multi-detector CT scans were scored fair to excellent in diagnostic quality, with no statistical difference in diagnostic quality for awake vs. sedated patients. Causes for two poor quality diagnostic scans included severe beam hardening from previously administered barium contrast agent and severe motion artifacts. We conclude that dual-phase contrast-enhanced multi-detector CT is a feasible and safe technique for evaluating awake and minimally sedated dogs presenting with acute abdominal signs.