Veterinary Anesthesia & Analgesia Support Group
Practical Information for the Compassionate Veterinary Practitioner
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  Balanced Anesthesia

Angela Dyer-Corso



Balanced anesthesia allows us to minimize patient risk and maximize patient comfort and safety.  The objectives of balanced anesthesia are to calm the patient, minimize pain, and reduce the potential for adverse effects associated with analgesic and anesthetic agents.

Calming the patient is important to allow for ease in handling and to decrease the amount of stress in the patient.  As we know, stress can cause tachycardia, tachypnoea, hypertension, and other consequences of catecholamine release.  These can all be detrimental to the anesthetized patient.  Stress and anxiety contribute to the nociceptive pain process. Some examples of medications that calm the patient are acepromazine, diazepam or midazolam, and medetomidine.

 Pain is associated with both elective surgery and trauma.  In people, especially pediatric patients, pain has been shown to delay healing, decrease appetite, and contribute to mortality.  The best way to control pain is to stop it before it starts.  Proper analgesics can also aid in calming the patient, and in decreasing the need for higher doses of inhalant anesthetics.  Some examples of analgesics are opioids (such as morphine, buprenorphine, butorphenol, and fentanyl); NSAIDS (such as carprofen, meloxicam, and ketoprofen); local anesthetics (such as lidocaine, and bupivacaine); and NDMA receptor antagonists (ketamine).

 All drugs have the potential to adversely affect the patient.  Some of the most profound negative effects of anesthesia are caused by inhalant anesthetics.  While these drugs generally have a high margin of safety and are very useful, their doses, and as such the tendency for adverse effects, can be drastically reduced with the proper use of calming agents and analgesics.

 The best approach to a balanced protocol involves individual assessment of the patient and the procedure in order to plan the anesthetic event.  Almost all patients should be premedicated with an analgesic +/- a tranquilizer.  An appropriate induction agent should be selected to rapidly induce anesthesia and allow rapid intubation.  Then maintenance can be achieved with an inhalant.  Maintenance can also be achieved with CRIs of some drugs (i.e. propofol), but that is usually reserved for special circumstances.


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Last modified: June 4, 2011 .