MRI scanner at Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital a first in Africa

The newly installed MRI scanner at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital is a first in Africa. Picture: Supplied

The newly installed MRI scanner at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital is a first in Africa. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 28, 2021


Pretoria - The University of Pretoria's Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital has put the City of Tshwane on the map as the first veterinary hospital in Africa to boast a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.

The veterinary hospital announced that they acquired the MRI scanner at the beginning of the year and had only just finished assembling it and officially using it in mid-July.

Dr Paul van Dam, a director at the facility, said prior to acquiring the MRI scanner the hospital and staff members had to rely on having to make special requirements with human hospitals in order to perform the scans on their furry patients.

Van Dam said this was often quite frustrating for the staff as they could only manage to squeeze in one or two animals per week, even though they would find themselves stuck with up to four or five animals needing treatment promptly.

"As most hospitals do not want humans and animals to mix our staff had to make their way to hospitals as early as 4.30am just to get to use the scanner before people start coming in. And because MRI scanners can take up to 45 minutes or longer per sitting we could only squeeze in one animal per week."

Now with the new MRI scanner up and running Van Dam said they would be able to perform scans at any time of the day on-site, without the additional time needed to travel to other facilities.

He added that the addition of the scanner at the facility meant that they were probably the only facility in South Africa with a high-field MRI scanner but also a first in Africa to boast an image acquisition optimised especially for veterinary patients.

“In South Africa, the use of MRIs for diagnostic purposes is limited to small animals and in the past, they were done on a variety of animal species, including several highly trained working dogs and a lion, whose central nervous system symptoms revealed that the animal was afflicted with hypovitaminosis A."

Van Dam said with the scanner at the facility being a 1,5 T unit, which was believed to be the strongest unit in veterinary use anywhere in Africa as it also had the biggest diameter bore available.

This according to the doctor would allow them to scan the bodies of even the largest dogs and many other animals, including wildlife such as big cats and great apes on the built-in table.

As an additional benefit, he said they would also be able to scan the limbs and necks of larger animals like horses on a purpose-built and locally designed table.

Professor Vinny Naidoo, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the university said the MRI scanner was made possible in part by a generous bequest from Betty Noakes, who had left a large part of her estate to the academic hospital to be used for the benefit of animals.

“Over the years, the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital has distinguished itself on various levels and it has now begun another exciting chapter in the more than 100-year history.

“With this addition it now begins a new era in service delivery and patient care which reinforces the hospital’s invaluable role and position as the country’s leading veterinary hospital,” concluded the university's Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe.

Pretoria News