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Critical Care Monitoring Equipment

Patients admitted to the Emergency Animal Hospital receive a thorough exam that includes a base line temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR).  These parameters along with others ordered by the attending emergency veterinarian are routinely monitored throughout your pets’ hospitalization. Some of the other types of monitoring procedures are listed below.

Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG) is an interpretation of the electric activity of the heart over a period of time that is used to monitor both heart rate and rhythm. The recording produced by this non-evasive procedure is called an electrocardiogram and is useful in determining the presence and type of heart arrhythmia.  EKG leads can be attached to a patient’s skin using patches or clips. The fur may need to be clipped to provide a better connection to the skin. If a hospitalized patient requires a heart monitor for a longer period of time, a special unit called a telemetry unit can be used to transmit the data from the patient anywhere within the treatment area.  

Pulse oximetry (also called pulse ox) is a procedure used to measure the oxygen (SPO2) level or O2 saturation in the blood. Measuring oxygen using pulse oximetry is noninvasive and painless and is performed by attaching a sensor to an area of the patient’s tissue, such as the lip or ear. The measurement gives a general indicator of delivery to the peripheral tissues.  Pulse oximetry allows for continuous monitoring, which is invaluable under dynamic conditions like anesthesia and critical illness.

Capnography (or end tidal CO2) is the noninvasive monitoring of the concentration or partial pressure of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the respiratory gases.  CO2 is a natural product of body metabolism and is carried in the blood and eliminated via the lung during respiration. When a patient takes a breath, the capnogram is a direct monitor of the inhaled and exhaled concentration or partial pressure of CO2. These levels are monitored using an in-line measurement system and the information gathered can help determine respiratory rates and effectiveness when a patient is under anesthesia.

Blood pressure values are obtained through a noninvasive procedure using a blood pressure cuff, which is place around the patient’s limb and inflated, and a stethoscope.  Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure, the systolic and the diastolic blood pressures. The systolic pressure which is the higher of the two numbers refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The diastolic pressure, which is the lower of the two numbers, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood. Blood pressure measurements are recorded as the systolic value over the diastolic value.

Central venous pressure (CVP) is considered a direct measurement of the blood pressure in the thoracic vena cava, near the right atrium of the heart. Special catheters can be inserted into a large vein to allow this type of monitoring. CVP reflects the amount of blood returning to the heart and the ability of the heart to pump the blood into the arterial system. This type of monitoring is more invasive because of the special catheter but is very useful in predicting the volume responsiveness (whether more fluid will improve cardiac output) of a critical patient.