Goals of this presentation are to identify physiologic and pathologic abnormalities that require attention in order to provide
safe anesthesia in dogs and cats that have, or will be undergoing, penetration of the thoracic cavity. Conditions that may
have specific considerations are traumatic injuries, such as auto collision or big dog-little dog syndrome, congenital abnormalities,
such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and persistent right aortic arch (PRAA), and pulmonary disease, such as pulmonary neoplasia,
abscess, torsion, or chylothorax. Some of the anesthetic considerations relate to the patients' problems and some are problems
resulting from opening the chest. A requirement common to all procedures is the need for adequate artificial ventilation
by use of a mechanical ventilator or from a person dedicated to achieving manual ventilation.
All of the considerations of thoracotomy apply to anesthesia for repair of a ruptured diaphragm even though the surgical approach
is a laparotomy. Furthermore, other problems are involved when the injury is recent, such as pulmonary contusions, possibility
of a full stomach and risk of aspiration pneumonia, and skeletal fractures.
Preanesthetic evaluation must identify other effects of trauma. Thoracic radiographs will be needed to assess presence of
pulmonary contusions, pneumothorax, pleural fluid (blood), and to identify the structures in the chest. Physical examination
includes search for evidence of head trauma, such as cranial fractures and scleral hemorrhage. Significance of preanesthetic
findings are listed in Table 1.
Table 1. Preanesthetic evaluation for anesthesia for ruptured diaphragm.
There are four areas of concern during anesthesia for repair of ruptured diaphragm (Summary in Table 2). Depth of breathing
may severely decrease immediately after induction of anesthesia and the patient will require artificial ventilation. Inspiratory
pressure should initially be limited to less than 25 cm H2O to avoid barotrauma. Ventilation with the usual parameters of 12 breaths/min and volume per breath of 15 ml/kg may have
to be altered in patients with stiff lungs to 20 breaths/min and 11 ml/kg. Hypoxemia may develop with the animal in one position
but resolve when the patient position is changed, for example, to the opposite lateral recumbency or moved from dorsal recumbency
to a tilted oblique position.
Hypotension can develop any time after induction of anesthesia but specifically may occur during surgery when the abdominal
organs are retrieved from the thoracic cavity. The probable mechanism is vasodilation in the abdominal organs resulting in
sequestration of blood. Treatment with a large bolus of crystalloid fluid is not advisable as hypervolemia may later induce
pulmonary edema. Management of low blood pressure in this situation is best with an IV infusion of vasoactive agent such
as dobutamine or dopamine, 5-7 micrograms/kg/min, or ephedrine, 0.06 mg/kg bolus IV. Dopamine and ephedrine release norepinephrine
and may increase the frequency of ventricular premature depolarizations.
Reexpansion pulmonary edema develops when forceful ventilations during anesthesia are used to rapidly expand lung that has
been collapsed for 12 hours or more. The local pressure imposed in order to expand totally collapsed alveoli results in cytokine
release. These mediators perfuse the lungs and alter capillary permeability resulting in pulmonary edema. In severe cases,
the dog or cat will be unable to maintain adequate oxygenation even when breathing 100% oxygen, and the animal dies. Prevention
lies in making no specific effort to re-expand the lung. The lung will progressively re-expand with time.
Table 2: Specific cautions during anesthesia for diaphragmatic rupture
The choice of anesthetic agents must be made after listing the specific problems of the individual patient as agents may have
to be ruled out. Although this author most frequently includes an anticholinergic agent in premedication of healthy patients,
these agents would most likely be omitted in patients with pulmonary and myocardial contusions to avoid increased heart rates
and potentiation of ventricular dysrhythmias.
Premedication should not be heavy because of respiratory depression, unless incorporated into the induction of anesthesia
sequence. Buprenorphine, 0.01 mg/kg, or butorphanol, 0.2-0.4 mg/kg, IM are good premedicants for cats, followed by induction
of anesthesia with diazepam or midazolam, 0.25 mg/kg, with ketamine, 5 mg/kg, given IV in increments 'to effect' and maintenance
of anesthesia with isoflurane or sevoflurane. Duration of action of butorphanol is not much longer than one hour, and a supplement
of butorphanol, 0.2 mg/kg, may be needed at that time.
Hydromorphone or oxymorphone, 0.05-0.1 mg/kg IM or IV, are good analgesic agents for dogs but may induce vomiting. Vomition
may cause adverse effects when the stomach or intestines are in the thoracic cavity and these opioids are better administered
after induction of anesthesia. The patient should not be premedicated with butorphanol or buprenorphine if you plan to use
a mu receptor agonist opioid intraoperatively. Buprenorphine will decrease the effectiveness of a pure mu receptor opioid
for more than 6 hours after administration. Hydromorphone or oxymorphone can be used in cats but frequently cause dysphoria
when heavy sedation is not used simultaneously. Diazepam/midazolam-ketamine is a useful induction agent in dogs with diaphragmatic
rupture. Propofol can be used for induction of anesthesia but induces hypotension and increases the irritability of the myocardium
particularly in patients with traumatic myocarditis.
Dogs and cats with severe myocardial bruising may be anesthetized with etomidate rather than ketamine. Etomidate causes no
cardiac depression and does not increase heart rate, unlike ketamine. Etomidate is used for induction of anesthesia, frequently
with diazepam or midazolam (separate syringes, not mixed as with ketamine). The method of administration and clinical signs
are similar to use of thiopental and propofol. Dose rate of etomidate in cats and small dogs is 1 – 1.5 mg/kg and less in
larger dogs, 0.5-1.0 mg/kg IV. Continuous administration of etomidate is not recommended as dose rates over 2.5 mg/kg are
An alternative protocol favored by some for use in sick dogs is induction of anesthesia with fentanyl and diazepam or midazolam,
and maintenance of anesthesia with isoflurane or sevoflurane. Fentanyl, 6-10 micrograms/kg, and diazepam or midazolam, 0.25
mg/kg, are drawn up in separate syringes. One-quarter to one-third of each drug is administered IV, flushing the catheter
between drugs, and the patient observed for 30-60 sec before an additional increment is administered. The drugs are titrated
until there is sufficient jaw relaxation for tracheal intubation to be accomplished. The dogs may responsive to loud noises
and swallowing may be observed during intubation. Fentanyl has a short duration of action, 20 minutes after IV administration,
and analgesia must be continued by IV infusion of fentanyl, 6 micrograms/kg/hr, or small supplements of hydromorphone or oxymorphone.
Preoxygenation is recommended for dogs and cats with thoracic disease. This involves administration of oxygen by mask for
2-3 minutes before induction and during induction of anesthesia. The rationale is that induction of anesthesia is accompanied
by onset of respiratory depression, occasionally apnea, and increasing the tissue level of oxygen first will avoid hypoxemia.
Oxygen supplementation is recommended for several hours after anesthesia until the residual effects of the inhalant anesthesia
are gone. Oxygen can be supplied with an oxygen cage or through a nasal tube(s) placed before recovery from anesthesia and
metered at 100 ml O2/kg/min. The effects of laparotomy and thoracic surgery have been demonstrated in humans to result in decreased lung function
for 1-2 weeks. Lung vital capacity is decreased 25-50% after abdominal surgery and tidal volume is decreased by 20%, gradually
increasing to normal in 2 weeks.