ISSN 2398-2950      

Anesthesia: complications - overview

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Introduction

  • Most deaths in animals under anesthesia are preventable with careful preparation and attention to detail.
  • In a large survey of perioperative deaths in small animals an overall death rate of 0.17% in dogs and 0.24% in cats was found (Brodbelt et al2008). This study just looked at death rates and not the causes of the deaths.
  • In healthy animals death rates reduced to 0.05% in dogs and 0.11% in cats. This group of fatalities was probably due to human error of some description.
  • In sick animals the rates increased to 1.33% in dogs and 1.4% in cats.

Risks

  • All stages of anesthesia are a potential hazard.
  • Always discuss the risks of anesthesia with owners before surgery.
  • Signed consent forms should be utilized.
  • Physiologically imbalanced patients are particularly at risk.
  • Successful outcomes depend upon:
    • Prompt recognition of developing problems.
    • Rapid diagnosis of the underlying cause.
    • Taking appropriate measures to correct the problem quickly.

Types of complications

  • Airway obstruction.
  • Breathing/respiratory compromise.
  • Circulatory failure.
  • Equipment failure.
  • Human error.
    Failure of perfusion of the tissues is the primary concern. 3 minutes without oxygen can result in permanent cerebral damage: resuscitation is the 'three minute emergency'. Beyond this time irreparable damage occurs. 

Pathophysiology

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Prevention

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Pre-operative considerations

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Accidents during anesthesia

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Accidents in recovery

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Brodbelt D C, Blissitt K J, Hammond R A et al (2008) The risk of death: the confidential report into perioperative small animal fatalities. Vet Anaesth Analg 35 (5), 365-373 PubMed.
  • Joubert K E & Lobetti R (2002) The cardiovascular and respiratory effects of medetomidine and thiopentone anaesthesia in dogs breathing at an altitude of 1486 m. J S Afr Vet Assoc 73 (3), 104-110 PubMed.
  • Sap R & Hellebrekers L J (1993) Medetomidine/propofol anaesthesia for gastroduodenal endoscopy in dogs. Vet Anaesth Anal 20 (2), 100-102 Wiley Online Library.
  • Clarke K W & Hall L W (1990) A survey of anaesthesia in small animal practice - AVA/BSAVA report. J Vet Anaesth 17, 4-10 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Hall L W & Clarke K W (1991) Veterinary Anaesthesia. London: Bailliere Tindall.

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