A recent article published on the Vet Image Solutions website discussed the association between ultrasound and animal nutrition (to read this article please click here). This week, I want to continue this theme by looking at the role ultrasound can play in food-related conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colitis. Although this article looks at research carried out in an animal model, the results could be relevant to a number of different species.

The role of ultrasound in detecting experimentally-induced colitis was carried out in rats, and the results published in a paper in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, October 2012 by Lied, GA. et al (5: pp 195-201). Experimentally-induced colitis is a condition used in animals as a means by which to look at IBD, and was artificially induced using two predetermined protocols in this paper. Following the induction of this condition, ultrasound imaging was then used to calculate the thickness of the intestinal wall from several abdominal areas before and after induction. Transabdominal ultrasound imaging was carried out here, which as the same suggests refers to ultrasound imaging of the abdomen. In addition to ultrasound-aided measurements, immune and faecal factors were also assessed, along with histological methods, although the results from these specific studies will not be looked at in detail for the purposes of this article.

This paper showed that not only did ultrasound imaging allow detection of an increase in the size of the wall of the intestine, but also that measurements taken following ultrasound imaging were closely associated with other factors that were indicative of the presence of inflammation. Consequently, this inflammation may be extrapolated to represent conditions such as colitis or IBD.

It is important to understand the reasoning behind using ultrasound to evaluate inflammation in this setting. As has previously been discussed in a number of articles on our website, ultrasound allows examination of the animal in question without the need to kill them first. Research on animals is a highly controversial topic, and any way in which animal death can be avoided would be greatly welcomed, and this paper has suggested a way in which this can occur.

Ultrasound technology may therefore help to revolutionise the world of research as we know it. With the generation of ultrasound scanning machines that can provide the practitioner with clearer pictures and ease of use, it seems that ultrasonography could become a much sought after technology in the not too distant future.