Amidst the influx of pet ownership across Canada and beyond, clinics are facing a higher-than-normal volume of patients. This uptick, paired with a global veterinary shortage, means practices are feeling the push to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently than ever before, all while continuing to provide the expected gold standard of care for patients.
Finding effective solutions to achieve these goals is top-of-mind for many, and often requires an overhaul of some of a practice’s key areas. Namely, a successful surgical procedure goes well beyond the surgical suite, which begs the question: Is the containment recovery area in your practice sufficient for your post-surgical patients?
Whether you are considering installing a brand-new space or looking for options to retrofit an existing one, there are several factors to keep in mind. What follows are a few best practices for planning a post-surgical containment space to help your team deliver the best possible care for patients of all species and sizes.
Support better post-op efficiencies
The physical path between a clinic’s surgical suite and its post-operative recovery area should be open and obstacle-free. Indeed, this pathway should offer adequate space for team members to easily transport patients from surgery and then comfortably place them in an appropriate recovery unit. The ideal recovery area should also house a workspace where staff can monitor patients and remain close in case of post-operative complications.
Consider patient population
When designing a recovery area, think about your caseload and the sizes of your patients. Smaller containment units (typically less than 1.2-m [48-in.] wide x 0.8-m [30-in.] tall) can comfortably secure cats, small dogs, or any patient requiring mobility restraint. Larger containment is needed to accommodate medium- and large-breed patients.
During recovery, many animals are prone to retreating to the back area of a cage, which makes it more difficult for staff to access them and navigate around medical devices. Selecting wider cages that are, perhaps, not as deep, can help increase care efficiencies and allow veterinary team members to reach patients more easily. Additionally, gates that open on the long side of each cage are ideal, as these offer more room for minimally disruptive patient access.
If space is a concern, cage banks can be configured with upper and lower tiers. Arranging bigger cages on low tiers is beneficial for housing large patients, as an animal can be set up comfortably in their respective recovery unit without needing to be lifted.
Oxygen delivery options
As patients recover from surgery, supplemental oxygen therapy may be required. Several options are available for this, and it is important to find a method that, while effective, causes the least amount of stress for the patient.
Oxygen cages are one option for creating a low-stress, oxygen-rich environment. These units are designed to maintain oxygen levels, temperature, humidity, and ventilation, making them a convenient option for most practices.
Maintaining consistent levels typically works best in oxygen cages which are 1.2 m (48 in.) x 0.8 m (30 in.) or less, which means this option is best suited for smaller animals. Look for an oxygen delivery system able to generate nine litres per minute, targeting 40 per cent oxygen. Additionally, use of warming pads can help minimize the likelihood of patients becoming hypothermic.
Maintaining oxygen levels in oxygen cages accommodating large-breed patients can be more complex. These typically require bottled oxygen (H-tanks) and a regulator system.
A cost-effective alternative to an H-tank system is an oxygen concentrator. Larger concentrator units can produce eight litres per minute, allowing them to handle the higher flow rates that are needed for larger oxygen therapy cages. These can also be used as an extra oxygen supply for an anesthesia system.
If an H-tank system or concentrator solution seems out of reach for a practice, an oxygen mask with a tight-fit seal can help deliver oxygen directly to large-breed patients.
Regardless of the oxygen system selected, one should consider integrating an oxygen analyzer in the recovery containment area. These are designed to spot-check oxygen levels, eliminating the need for manual tests and allowing team members to stay focused on patients.
There are many options for creating or enhancing a practice’s recovery containment area. While best-practice recommendations can help put things into motion, there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.
Establishing a relationship with a containment manufacturer or oxygen solution supplier and leaning on their expertise is beneficial. These professionals can guide practice owners through the options and assist in designing a containment recovery area that best suits the needs of a clinic’s patients and its team. This will create an environment perfectly suited for post-operative patients and help foster the best possible veterinary care.
Jose Valdez is marketing manager for Midmark-owned company Shor-Line, which has been manufacturing stainless-steel housing, surgery, and treatment equipment for 90 years.