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Veterinary Forum May 2009 (Vol 26, No 5)

Anesthesia summit brings focus to 'overlooked' specialty

by Paul Basilio

    CHICAGO — Up to 30% of anesthetic-related deaths in dogs may be the result of poor veterinary anesthesia training, according to a 2008 study published in JAVMA.

    To help lower this number, Abbott Animal Health recently held an anesthesia summit here to bring together leading veterinary experts to discuss important issues and common problems in the field of anesthesia.

    "Anesthesia has been an overlooked specialty," said Nora Matthews, DVM, DACVA, professor of anesthesiology at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and one of the experts who attended the summit. "When I was a resident, my mentor told me that if you do your job right, no one will know you're there. A lot of clients don't know that anesthesia is a specialty, so we need to do a better job of promoting it and calling attention to its importance."

    Experts at the summit agreed that the shortage of well-trained veterinary technicians needed to be addressed, and that a technician who can properly monitor individualized anesthetic treatments is essential to ensuring a patient's full recovery from surgery.

    In addition to training technicians, other areas of veterinary anesthesia also declared critical to a patient's care included:

    • Close monitoring of animals while achieving the correct vaporizer settings of gas-induced anesthesia to lessen the likelihood of adverse events
    • Using an individualized dose-to-effect anesthetic protocol to help evaluate a pet during surgery
    • Using a reliable anesthetic that can help ensure rapid, precise control over the depth of anesthesia, can minimize morbidity and can assist the smooth return of cognitive and motor skills

    "Anesthesia has changed a lot over the past 10 years, mostly because we see more geriatric patients with underlying medical conditions," said Matthews, who is a consultant for Abbott. "We also are doing longer and more complicated procedures that weren't done 10 years ago. This has challenged practitioners to do a better job with anesthesia and promote survival of patients."

    Lynn Bromstedt, divisional vice president for Abbott Animal Health, indicated that more education and training in anesthesia can help provide a better future for animals, owners and veterinary professionals. "The summit provided us with tremendous insight," she added. "As a result, Abbott is looking closely at current protocols and guidelines within the industry and assessing the benefits of further studies in hopes of guiding effective and successful anesthetic treatments."

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