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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Types & Frequency Of Surgery

J Bob left this as a comment on a recent entry of mine.

I was wondering how often you get emergency surgeries vs. how often you get routine ones (such as spays)? 

Also, is most of your time spent doing surgery or doing other things such as check-ups?

First let me say that I'm a surgeon at heart.  I have consistently found that virtually every vet falls into one of two categories: surgery or medicine.  Some do surgery because they have to and really thrive on dealing with the diagnostic challenges of medical cases.  Others love surgery, often repeating the adage "A chance to cut is a chance to cure."  I definitely fall into the latter category and would be happy spending the majority of my day in the surgery suite.  I considered going into surgical specialty, but I was tired of school by the time I graduated and don't like orthopedic surgery, so opted for general practice.

That being said, I spend far more time on things other than surgery.  It's the nature of a general veterinary practice.  On average a spay will take me around 15-20 minutes of actual surgery time, but there is pre-surgical preparation and post-operative recovery, all of which extends the turnaround time in the single surgery room we have.  Some surgeries will take shorter (I average 60 seconds for a cat neuter and 7 minutes for a dog neuter), while others take longer.  I see around 20-25 pets per day, and in the time it takes to do a few surgeries I could see 3-5 patients in rooms.  Take all of that together and I will do an average of 3-4 anesthetic procedures per day.  This number includes dental cleanings as well as routine surgeries.  In order to accommodate all of the patients who need to come in I have to minimize the surgical procedures.  In a surgical specialty practice the surgeries are far more complicated and lengthy, which means that a specialist may only do 3-5 surgeries, but take the majority of the day doing so.

Routine surgeries (spays and neuters) are by far the most common ones.  I'll do at least one of these procedures every working day, and often more than one.  Non-urgent, non-routine surgeries such as mass removals, bladder stone extractions, and so on happen maybe once or twice per week and it's not uncommon to go a few weeks without doing something like this.  A true "drop everything" emergency surgery happens only a few times per year, probably no more often than once per month at the most.  Between all of that are urgent but minor surgical procedures such as wound repairs.  These usually need to be done the same day, but are short enough that they can be worked into the regular schedule.

To me surgery is the most fun and interesting part of my job.  I wish that I could get to do more of it.