Surgery went “well”

In Veterinary on April 28, 2011 at 3:32 am

All things medical can be a dicey proposition. As a professional I can not ethically make any guarantees of the outcome of any test or procedure. We discuss liklihoods. Based on the knowledge we currently have or experience that has been brought to bear. Surgery is where this comes true more than any other area.

Buzz words abound: routine, as expected, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. But there are so many ways that the surgical process can go awry, and clients/patients are understandably wary. And they don’t know all there is to know about these things. They rely on the medical people to do what they say they will (and what was that exactly?) and hope for the best possible outcome. On the medical side we do things so often we don’t think much about the bad possibilities, often not fear what can go wrong.

What I have come up with, having worked with animals for going on 30 years over half of them as a veterinarian, is that equal parts to how a patient does medically/surgically is shared 3 ways: me (the hospital experience, my surgical skill, our team etc.), the patients inherent ability to heal not to mention deal with the process including anesthesia, and the client who plays a key role in following instructions and administering medications and being watchful for things going awry. If things don’t go well we all have different psychological mechanisms that drive our behavior.

Some vets assume it was all their fault, others don’t imagine that anything they did could have been a problem. I personally feel you should learn from each circumstance in order to help that patient and others that follow. There is a fair amount of soul searching involved – “could I have caused that pets injury or demise?” It can be a sobering process.

The reason this comes up at this time is a patient that has had 4 surgeries at this point we are currently treating. The first surgery did not go well and ever since we have been fighting the results. There are $ considerations and every time the client states that she will have to euthanize her pet friend “next time” but has ended up not being able to do so. Most recently a specialist surgeon did some of the work. Hopefully for the final time (hope, hope, hope!!!). According to this client I can do no wrong. To myself I wonder if I haven’t terribly failed and put the patient through a horrible experience that is all my fault not to mention spent a bunch of my clients money that she didn’t have. Sigh.


A little bit of fear can be a very educating thing


  1. i love your honesty! you are obviously one of the best and most thoughtful, compassionate vets out there!

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