The Economic Picture
By Jay McDonnell, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology)
VNoC's consultation fees haven't changed in more than four years; and, after reviewing our records for the last quarter of 2012, we found that since the addition of the VIOC MRI on-site, the overall cost of back surgery has not gone up.
There are several reasons why costs for back and neck surgery have not increased with the addition of MRI. First, charges for the initial anesthesia, IV catheter and point-of-care blood work is included in the price of the MRI. Secondly, the anesthesia time can be shorter with MRI compared to myelography (you may remember those myelo-marathons in vet school). Finally, no overnight stay is required for seizure watch.
As an aside, we are very happy with the images from MR. The quality of the MR images is far superior to myelography. Think of it as the difference between a 60" plasma HDTV with Dolby Sound compared with an Etch-A-Sketch! The images can be sent out to be read nearly real-time to neuroradiologists if we have specific questions. We also like MR because it is much safer then myeolography, which has a seizure incidence of 5-12% in veterinary patients. Someone here at CVRC says every week, “I am so glad that MRI is available here.”
We're working to keep costs down in other ways, as well. Most of the pharmaceuticals we prescribe, including phenobarbital, potassium bromide and pain medications, are scripted out to human pharmacies. This reduces the cost to the client and reduces VNOC's costs, as we do not have to stock them.
When an animal is going to be scanned--have an MRI of the brain or spine--we require recent chest x-rays and blood work, typically within two weeks of the procedure. If a client is committed to having an MRI, we recommend that referring vets offer to do these screenings and provide them to us, as this can also lower the cost to the patient's owner.
If at any time you or your client have questions about costs or the differences in diagnostic testing, please don't hesitate to contact us.