Archive for October, 2011

Learning about pain

One of the best things about being involved in a new and rapidly expanding area of veterinary medicine is the opportunity to get involved in discoveries at the forefront of the field and try to answer some of the new questions that our expanding knowledge creates. I recently had the privilege of attending a course on neuroscience discoveries in the field of persistent pain and their implications for its management. Most of the other delegates work with human patients, and as ever many were initially surprised to find vets in their midst- even our human medical counterparts are not always aware of the current developments in veterinary rehabilitation. However, events like this are a great way to open discussion and foster co-operation between professions with different areas of expertise and definitely encourage wider thought around the subject. While there are some relatively straightforward ways in which experience in the human field can help shape our approach to animal patients in persistent pain, such as understanding previously misunderstood physiological responses elsewhere in the body, explaining strange phenomena such as phantom pains in missing limbs, and appreciating the importance of the animal’s environment- including its owners- on the patient, other aspects will as ever prove harder to apply. Some current techniques in human pain management are heavily reliant on teaching the patient to understand their brain’s responses to what it perceives as threats to the body, identifying trigger factors specific to themselves, and learning to manage them in a graded and controlled way. How will we transfer this knowledge to our animal patients without presuming a lot that we cannot prove, and how will we measure if our efforts are succeeding? How far is it reasonable to go in order to gain evidence that might improve future treatment of our patients? We can’t answer all of these questions straight away- but I think it’s important that we’re trying to.

It’s ‘unofficial’ ultrasound week at ARC…

You know what they say about buses- wait a little while and then three arrive all at once? We’ve had a week a little bit like that at ARC, and our therapeutic ultrasound machine has been very busy.
First of all we had a new equine patient. Tendon injuries are relatively common in horses, and it’s not unusual for our ultrasound unit to be ‘on the road’ visiting equine patients in their yards or stables. However, we don’t see cases like Lola as often… it’s true that Lola is fairly large, being a Dobermann dog, but it seems nobody has explained to her that she is in fact NOT a racehorse. Having partly ruptured the digital flexor tendon (which helps her bend her toes) in her paw, she too needs ultrasound to help micromassage the injured tendon with sound waves and make the healing scar smaller, more stretchy and more functional as a result. Ultrasound treatment doesn’t hurt at all, but it does take a little while. Fortunately, she’s a very patient patient!
And as if that wasn’t enough, even the humans are at it- one of the other uses of ultrasound is to heat up older scar tissue and help it to stretch a bit, so after a busy day wielding the probe, Rhona’s knee is next in line for treatment. It is, as they say, a funny old world…….