I recently posted about how I was preparing to start third year and Junior Surgery. Since then, I’ve successfully completed my first two weeks of third year, and I’ve had my first day on the anesthesia team in our school’s shelter medicine department. I am happy to report that both of my sweet patients recovered beautifully, and are hopefully on their way to finding perfect forever homes. That said, running anesthesia can be really stressful, so I thought I would offer some tips to make anesthesia as smooth as possible!
- Know normal values. One thing that has been drilled into me from both our anesthesia and surgery professors is that you can’t recognize abnormal until you know what normal is. This means that whether you’re anesthetizing a cat or a colt, you need to know what is normal for them. This includes basic temperature, pulse, and respiration as well as ways to detect anesthetic depth in different species.
- YOU are the best patient monitor. In veterinary medicine, there is a huge range in patient monitoring systems, from simple to very complex. But the one thing they ALL have in common is that they are machines, and machines mess up. No matter what kind of monitoring system you have available, make sure that you are personally checking in on your patient and not just reading numbers on a screen. Count your patient’s respiration rate, listen to their heart rate, and make sure their anesthetic depth is appropriate.
- Know your anesthetic drugs. There are SO many different medications currently being used for anesthesia in vet med. It’s really important to know the basics of what your hospital keeps on hand. They act on many different metabolic pathways, can have different effects of heart rate and respiration, and may have different onset and recovery times. It’s important to know these differences so you can know what to expect for your patient. Some anesthetics also have specific reversal agents to counteract their effects, and it’s important to know which of these you can use and when.
I am certainly not an anesthesia expert, but I am learning as much as I can. Anesthesia can be a really unnerving part of veterinary medicine, but I’m finding that the better I understand anesthetic principles, the more confident I become when taking care of my patients.