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Feline abdominal ultrasonography: what's normal? what's abnormal? The biliary tree

Sally Griffin
Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2019, 21 (5): 429-441

PRACTICAL RELEVANCE: Abdominal ultrasound plays a vital role in the diagnostic work-up of many cats presenting to general and specialist practitioners. The biliary tree encompasses the liver, gall bladder and bile ducts, although only diseases affecting the latter two are discussed here. Diseases of the bile ducts and gall bladder are more common than those of the liver parenchyma and ultrasound plays an important role in their diagnosis.

CLINICAL CHALLENGES: Despite ultrasonography being a commonly used modality, many practitioners are not comfortable performing an ultrasound examination or interpreting the resulting images. Even differentiating between normal variation and pathological changes can be challenging for all but the most experienced. In addition, a lack of pathological change does not necessarily rule out disease; for example, absence of gall bladder and/or extrahepatic biliary distension is not sufficient to exclude the possibility of biliary obstruction, and in many cases of cholangitis the liver and biliary tree are unremarkable on ultrasound examination.

EQUIPMENT: Ultrasound facilities are readily available to most practitioners, although use of ultrasonography as a diagnostic tool is highly dependent on operator experience.

AIM: This review, part of an occasional series on feline abdominal ultrasonography, discusses the appearance of the normal and diseased biliary system. It is aimed at general practitioners who wish to improve their knowledge and confidence in feline abdominal ultrasound and is accompanied by high-resolution images. Percutaneous ultrasound-guided cholecystocentesis is also covered. Ultrasound examination of the liver was discussed in an article published in January 2019 and an upcoming article will cover hepatic vascular anomalies.

EVIDENCE BASE: Information provided in this article is drawn from the published literature and the author's own clinical experience.


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