ELISE M. ATKINSON, CVT
The same type of equipment that is used to monitor people undergoing surgery can and should be used for your pet.
That’s why AAHA-accredited hospitals are required to have a trained staff member perform anesthesia and use at least one of the following pieces of equipment when surgery is performed on your pet:
- Respiratory monitor: measures your pet’s breathing
- Pulse oximeter: measures the amount of oxygen in your pet’s blood
- Blood pressure monitor: measures your pet’s blood pressure
- Continuous electrocardiograph (ECG or EKG) monitor: measures your pet’s heartbeats
- Esophageal stethoscope: measures heartbeats and respirations manually
This equipment can help save your pet’s life.
Tim Snarski, a registered veterinary technician at AAHA-accredited Dogwood Veterinary Hospital and Pet Resort in Chapel Hill, N.C., knows how important it is to monitor a patient’s vital signs during surgery.
A recent story brings the lesson home.
Gus, a German shepherd mix, had a severely swollen stomach and was retching. Radiographs (X-rays) showed that Gus was suffering from gastric dilatation-volvulus, or GDV. This was a true emergency; GDV can be fatal. The sooner a patient can undergo surgery, the better chance he or she has of surviving.
To prepare for surgery, Gus was hooked up to a piece of equipment that monitored several of his vital signs, including his heartbeat. During surgery, the ECG registered irregular heartbeats. Because this veterinary team follows the AAHA standards of accreditation in monitoring surgical patients, they were able to notice and correct the irregular heartbeats with medication.
Without proper monitoring, staff wouldn’t have had any way to discover the irregular heartbeats. Gus could have suffered a heart attack and died.
Monitoring patients during surgery is just one standard that sets AAHA-accredited practices apart from others. To become accredited, practices are evaluated on the basis of 900 standards for delivery of quality patient care.
For Snarski, patient monitoring is much more than standard practice. “It’s crucial to have the proper monitoring equipment” to save patients’ lives, he says.
Gus was truly lucky that he was brought to an AAHA-accredited hospital. Quite possibly, that ECG spelled the difference between life and death for him.
Elise M. Atkinson, CVT, is an AAHA practice accreditation coordinator.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter July/August 09 - Volume 4 Issue 4, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.