Many of the medical advancements were seeing today seem like theyre right out of a science fiction movie. Options for diagnosing and treating illness and disease have taken on a whole new look. Equipment advancements include digital radiography, MRI, and CT scanners. And advancements for new and better treatments exist because of stem cell research, new medications, and the use of advanced equipment, technology, and information.
With the advent of electronic medical records and digitized health information, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and a group of dedicated veterinarians have created an extensive list of diagnostic codes closely related to the human Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) system. This coding system consists of a collection of medical terms, which provide codes, terms, synonyms, and definitions that cover anatomy, diseases, findings, procedures, microorganisms, substances, and more, allowing for a consistent way to index, store, retrieve, and aggregate medical data.The terms include clinical signs and diagnostic terms commonly used in companion animal practices in North America. AAHA encourages all veterinary hospitals to begin using this coding system and hopes to create a collection of data that will ultimately help researchers classify, track, and implement changes to improve treatment, prevent diseases, and learn more about the transmission of disease. While collecting data isnt thought of as science fiction, the initiative to begin collecting the data is what will help move the science, diagnostics, and disease treatment for animals into the future.
Though tracking illness and disease is an advancement that will help veterinarians improve patient care, real science-fiction-like developments include things like 3D printing. At the University of Illinois Teaching Hospital in Urbana, Ill., Stephen Joslyn, DVM, a veterinary radiologist, is using 3D technology to enhance the probability of successful surgeries. Joslyn and his lab are experimenting with 3D printing and different materials to make replications of bones. They begin with a CT scan of the bone, replicate the bones structure with the 3D printer, and then perform surgery on the bone. This mock surgery using the bone model is a great way for surgeons to practice a surgery before they actually perform the surgery on the patient.
Remember the handheld tricorder Dr. Beverly Crusher used to diagnose and treat patients in Star Trek? This technology isnt available yet, but the XPRIZE Foundation, along with underwriter Qualcomm Foundation, are sponsoring a $10 million XPRIZE competition to develop and create such a device. According to their website, the competition encourages teams to invent a portable, wireless, handheld device that monitors and diagnoses multiple health conditions. Specifically what theyre looking for is a device that can diagnose diseases and measure things like blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature. Ultimately, this tool will collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurements using a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies, and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements. The anticipated awards ceremony is scheduled for August 2016. While this technology is currently being developed for humans as a tool to assess and manage their own health without going to the hospital or doctor’s office, applications and technologies for animals cant be far behind.
With medical advancements, sometimes human medicine takes the lead, and other times animal medicine takes the lead. And, though the science-fiction-like advancements are exciting, some of the more down to earth and realistic developments happening right now include advancements in cancer treatments and prevention.
Unfortunately, cancer has become a more commonly diagnosed disease in dogs. According to the Morris Animal Foundation, 1 in 4 dogs will die of cancer. And for dogs over the age of 10, approximately 50 percent of deaths are cancer-related. Veterinarians now have a cancer vaccine to prevent the spread of oral malignant melanoma. Once oral malignant melanoma has been diagnosed and the original tumor has been removed or radiated and the cancer is under control, a melanoma cancer vaccine can be given. This vaccine attacks and stops the cancerous cells from spreading to other areas of the body.
You might also be seeing your veterinary practice using technology in a variety of communication tools. Many veterinary health care teams are using email, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to communicate. The use of tablets and smart phones enhance their ability to communicate more efficiently with each other and with you. While technological advancements enhance medical abilities in many ways, communication and the personal relationship health care teams have with you–and the dedication the team has to your pet–are still the ever-important foundation for providing the high-quality care your pet deserves. Stay tuned as medical advancements continue to move and evolve at warp speed!