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Pre-Surgical Preparation and Testing

Mar 22 2022

With modern drugs and sophisticated equipment, the risk associated with general anesthesia and surgery is minimal for a healthy pet.  

"The best way to minimize the risk for your pet is to have a complete pre-surgical evaluation before the procedure. " 

However, the potential for complications still exists, and the best way to minimize the risk for your pet is to have a complete pre-surgical evaluation performed before the procedure. This allows the veterinarian to determine if your pet has any underlying problems that might lead to complications, and to make any adjustments necessary to safeguard your pet's health and comfort. 

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What to expect with soft-tissue surgery at CAH

Our veterinarians adhere to the highest standard of care for all surgical procedures. Our doctors place the uppermost priority on pain management to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable throughout the entire surgical procedure (pre-peri, and post-operation). Care doesn’t stop at pre-operative care, we ensure that pet parents are instructed with all pre-surgical dietary restrictions, and procedural updates, and have the correct paperwork filed to make the surgery day less stressful. All vaccination requirements and pre-surgery administrative needs are handled seamlessly with hospital staff. After surgery, our technicians monitor the patient until fully awake. 

Once the pet is conscious, we keep pet parents updated about the procedure and inform them once their pet is ready for discharge or if the pet requires additional hospitalized monitoring. In most cases, pets can be discharged the same day as surgery, except for when it comes to major soft-tissue surgeries, which may require additional medical care. All these details are addressed between the pet parent and the veterinarian or technician. 

Routine blood testing 

Routine blood testing typically includes a complete blood count (CBC) and a serum biochemistry profile; these tests provide a wealth of important information about a pet's health status.

Complete Blood Count - this simple test analyses the cellular components of blood. These include red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues, white blood cells, which fight infection and respond to inflammation, and platelets, which help the blood clot. The CBC provides details about the number, size, and shape of the various cell types, as well as any abnormalities that may be present. If there are deficiencies in the red cells, white cells, or platelets, or if there are abnormal cells present, then anesthesia and surgery should be delayed, if possible, until the underlying problem is corrected. 

Serum Biochemistry Profile - this is a series of tests performed on serum, which is the liquid component of blood. These tests provide information about how well the various organs of the body are working. Each test provides details about a specific organ or metabolic disease. For example, there are tests to assess the function of the liver, kidney, and pancreas, and tests to identify the presence of diabetes, etc. Major abnormalities, especially involving the liver or kidney, or evidence of serious metabolic disease would justify delaying anesthesia and surgery until the underlying problem was corrected. 

Additional Testing - a number of additional tests may be performed, either as part of routine preparations, or in response to some irregularity, deficiency, or abnormality identified on physical examination or routine blood testing. 

Urinalysis - examination, and analysis of urine are necessary for a complete evaluation of the urinary system. Urinalysis provides information about kidney function, inflammation in the kidneys or bladder, some metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes), and the presence of urinary crystals. Urinalysis is recommended as a part of routine pre-anesthetic testing and is especially important whenever there are signs of problems involving the kidney or bladder. 

Thyroid Testing - The thyroid gland acts as a   "thermostat", setting the metabolic rate of the whole body. Thyroid testing prior to surgery is important for both dogs and cats, but for different reasons.

"Thyroid testing prior to surgery is important for both dogs and cats, but for different reasons." 

Additional Testing - a number of additional tests may be performed, either as part of routine preparations, or in response to some irregularity, deficiency, or abnormality identified on physical examination or routine blood testing. 

In the dog, thyroid disease usually involves a poorly functioning gland (hypothyroidism) and may result in poor wound healing following surgery. In the cat, thyroid disease usually involves an overactive gland (hyperthyroidism), which leads to stress on the heart and other organs. Hyperthyroidism should be corrected before proceeding with anesthesia and surgery, due to an increased risk of complications.

Imaging - x-rays, ultrasound, or other imaging techniques may be recommended prior to anesthesia and surgery, especially if abnormalities or irregularities are found during routine testing. If your veterinarian has concerns about your pet's heart function or needs to know whether cancer has spread, or wants to evaluate the best approach to the surgery, etc., diagnostic imaging may provide the answers. 

Electrocardiogram (EKG) - an electrocardiogram involves attaching painless electrodes to specific points on the pet's body, similar to the procedure in humans. The electrodes detect tiny electrical signals sent from the heart with each heartbeat. These electrical pulses are recorded on a strip of paper by the EKG machine, giving a graphic printout or "tracing" of the electrical activity within the heart. The veterinarian can examine the tracing to determine if the pet has a normally functioning heart. 

How will my veterinarian determine if my pet can have anesthesia and surgery?

Once all the test information has been gathered and analyzed, your veterinarian will make recommendations about the advisability to proceed with anesthesia and surgery. In some situations, the risk will be too great, and the procedure will be delayed to allow time to treat the underlying problem. In other cases, the decision will be that it is safe to proceed as planned.  Sometimes adjustments will be made to minimize risk even further, such as using a different type of anesthetic, administering pre-surgical antibiotics, giving intravenous fluids prior to the surgery, etc. 

"Once all the test information has been gathered and analyzed, your veterinarian will make recommendations about the advisability to proceed with anesthesia and surgery." 

It is important to note that there is a small but unavoidable risk whenever a pet undergoes anesthesia and surgery. Pre-surgical preparation does not eliminate this risk, but it greatly reduces the potential for unexpected complications and goes a long way towards ensuring your pet has a safe procedure, and a smooth and uneventful recovery.

Contributors: Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Kristiina Ruotsalo, DVM, DVSc, Dip ACVP & Margo S. Tant BSc, DVM, DVSc

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