Use of Multidetector Computed Tomography in the Assessment of Dogs with Pericardial Effusion

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Contrast-enhanced multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) allows high spatial and temporal resolution imaging of cardiac, thoracic, and abdominal structures. Accurate determination of the cause of pericardial effusion (PE) is essential to providing appropriate treatment and prognosis. Echocardiography and pericardial fluid analysis may not differentiate between causes of PE and cannot identify extracardiac metastasis.


Describe the thoracic and abdominal MDCT findings and evaluate the utility of MDCT to differentiate between neoplastic and nonneoplastic causes of PE in dogs.


Eleven client-owned dogs with PE diagnosed by echocardiography.


Prospective observational study. Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE), 3-view thoracic radiography, and contrast-enhanced thoracic and abdominal MDCT images were evaluated for the presence of cardiac masses, pulmonary metastases, and abdominal masses. Histopathology in 5 dogs and survival analysis in all dogs were evaluated.


A neoplastic cause was identified in 6/11 dogs and a nonneoplastic cause was identified in 5/11. Cardiac MDCT findings were consistent with TTE findings in all dogs with right atrial (5/5) and heart base masses (1/1). Pulmonary metastases were identified in 1/11 dogs by thoracic radiography and in 2/11 dogs by MDCT. MDCT identified splenic or hepatic lesions consistent with neoplasia in 6/11 and 5/11 dogs, respectively. Focal MDCT pericardial changes at the pericardiocentesis site were noted in 3/11 dogs.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance:

Multidetector computed tomography did not improve the detection of cardiac masses in dogs with PE over echocardiography. The benefit of MDCT was primarily in the detection of pulmonary metastases and extracardiac lesions using a single imaging modality.

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