Anesthesia has come along way from what it used to be. Its far more safe and controlled. Inhaled gas is minimized by the use of other injectable – and in some cases reversible – agents, as well as pain medication with sedative effects.
Veterinarians anesthetize animals on a daily basis, but when it comes to your own pets, owners often are nervous about the risks. Modern anesthesia is very safe. According to Veterinary Partners the risk of a pet dying under anesthesia is less than 1%. This is in part because of advances made in monitoring and the drugs available. Unfortunately, there is no “standard” for anesthesia in the veterinary world. We encourage you to ask the veterinarian performing the surgery what they do to minimize anesthetic risk before choosing a surgeon.
Today inhaled anesthetics are far safer than older anesthetics. Inhalant agents are anesthetic drugs that are breathed in and out, rather than injected into blood vessels or muscle. The drugs are absorbed through lung tissue into the blood vessels and circulate through the body. Isoflurane is a newer anesthetic gas that is less likely to aggravate pre-existing abnormal heart rhythm. Additionally, it enters and exits the brain rapidly. This allows for greater control of “depth” of sleep and a faster recovery.
The perfect anesthetic drug would not alter heart or lung function, provide adequate pain control and excellent muscle relation and is readily reversible. The perfect drug does not exist. However, by using a combination of drugs we can get close. Pets are pre-medicated with a pain medication that is also a sedative and muscle relaxant. Propofol is then used as a short- and fast-acting anesthetic to induce sleep. Isoflurane is then used to maintain unconsciousness. In this way, we can minimize the side effect of any one agent by using less of it.
Pain Control and Anesthetic Safety:
Effective pain control is the other way to minimize the use of anesthesia. Surgery is painful and painful events are more likely to awaken a patient. By minimizing pain we can use less anesthesia and keep the patient “lighter” under anesthesia. To control pain we use nerve blocks whenever appropriate, including epidurals for most orthopedic surgeries. We add pain control to the pet’s fluids that run during surgery, and as mentioned prior, one of the pre-anesthetic agents helps with pain control and sedation. We also give additional oral pain medications to continue pain control at home.