What other complications can happen during anesthesia? (part 3)

The healthiest patient can run into complications during anesthesia.
In part 1, we discussed breathing complications.
In part 2, we discussed cardio-vascular complications.
Today, let’s discuss other complications that can happen during anesthesia.

1. Hypothermia

This word means that the body temperature is too low. We do all kinds of things to prevent hypothermia before, during and after anesthesia: heating blankets, forced-air warm blankets, warm IV fluids etc.
If the temperature were still too low, we would find even more solutions to increase it back to normal.

2. Hyperthermia

This is the opposite of hypothermia, so this means that the body temperature is too high.
It can occur because of an unpredictable reaction to anesthesia drugs, which is thankfully extremely rare.

Less common, sometimes we use so many devices to increase a patient’s temp, that it goes a bit too high. This is especially true in small patients. We would then stop 1 or 2 options until the temp is back to normal.

3. Bleeding

Bleeding is an inevitable occurrence during any surgery.

The surgeon’s job is to minimize it.

In some rare cases, the bleeding is so significant (for example, a large tumor that bleeds excessively), that a blood transfusion is necessary.

4. Regurgitation

Under anesthesia, the stomach relaxes, and stomach fluid can easily go “up.”

This is a bit similar to acid reflux in people.

Worst case scenario, a few days after anesthesia, it can lead to aspiration pneumonia as explained below.

5. Aspiration

Under anesthesia, patients can’t control their swallowing reflex, so it is possible that fluid from the stomach can end up in the throat.

From there, the fluid can go down the trachea (wind pipe) and into the lungs.

This is called aspiration.

Once in the lungs, fluid or food can cause a type of pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia.

To reduce this risk, we recommend fasting the patient after dinner time, the night before surgery. In at-risk breeds, such as dogs with a flat face (Bulldogs, Pugs, Bostons…), we routinely give 2 anti-vomiting drugs and an antacid.

The same drugs can be given before specific surgeries, such as abdominal surgery, in any breed.

Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence.

As you can see, the risks of these complications are small, and most complications can be solved quickly.

The key is to have good monitoring equipment, and above all, experienced anesthesia nurses.

Every patient we anesthetize has a dedicated anesthesia nurse, whose only job is to keep her patient safe.

If you would like to learn how we can help your pet with safe surgery and anesthesia, please contact us through www.DrPhilZeltzman.com

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Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!