An IV (intravenous) catheter is placed for every anesthetized patient in our hospital.
While not every veterinary hospital requires this safety measure, every human hospital does, and we feel strongly about its worth.
The most important reason to use an IV catheter during anesthesia is emergency preparation. Anesthetic emergencies are uncommon in veterinary practice. However, when they occur, there is no time to waste. Having a catheter in place means we can administer emergency, lifesaving drugs immediately, rather than trying to then place an IV catheter or give the needed drugs with syringe and needle. Circulatory collapse often occurs in this type of emergency, so low blood pressure and flaccid veins can interfere with access to the circulation, thus wasting precious time.
During circulatory collapse, a tremendous volume of fluid is required to create blood flow to deliver oxygen and emergency medications to vital organs. Even if emergency administration of calcium, epinephrine and/or atropine are successful, without sufficient volume to move these ingredients through the bloodstream, recovery may not be forthcoming. Large volume simply cannot be administered with syringe and needle alone. Doing so requires a catheter, and a big one at that. Therefore, we always choose the largest catheter bore that will fit a given size of patient.
Emergencies aside, an everyday reason for administering fluid therapy during anesthesia for dogs and cats is to maintain a normal blood pressure, as anesthetics tend to cause blood pressure reduction. Fluid administration helps to provide vital movement of blood to important organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and lungs.
“It doesn’t happen very often” isn’t reason enough to fail to administer IV fluids for every anesthetized patient. When it does happen, the life of that patient is at stake. And that life is precious to your pet’s doctor, as well as to his owner.
Yes, some hair must be clipped from his leg. And there is a little added expense.
When the alternative is considered, that seems little enough to pay.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.