`HIGH-TECH' COMES TO `VET MED' Fiberoptics to repair a racehorse's knee, a pacemaker to extend the life of the family dog, plastic surgery for cats--clearly, modern medical technology isn't just for people.
A yearling filly lies on her back on a surgical table, her front legs tied together and her body draped with blue sterile cloths. Carefully, the veterinary surgeon removes degenerating bone from the horse's left hind leg using arthroscopic surgery, a microscopic surgical procedure. Using a special fiberoptic tool that can be viewed on a television monitor, the surgeon watches the screen to guide his movements as he performs the operation. An electrocardiograph monitors the filly's heartbeat as the blue-suited surgical team pays close attention to other vital signs.
Awake and alert 45 minutes after major surgery, the filly paws the straw and prances around in her stall. Being a thoroughbred, the filly can now look forward to competing at the racetrack.
Arthroscopic surgery is most often used in sports medicine to repair the joints, tendons, and ligaments of injured human athletes. But increasingly the joints, tendons, and ligaments of equine athletes--racehorses--are also being repaired by arthroscopy, as medical procedures that were once considered fit only for humans have found a niche in animal care.
What's true of ailing horses is also becoming true for dogs, cats and other critters, too. When it comes to modern medicine nothing, it seems, is too good for the family pet. Schnauzers with abnormal heartbeats get pacemakers, cocker spaniels with cataracts get surgery and soft contact lenses during recovery, large dogs with hip deterioration get metal and plastic prostheses, and chemotherapy and plastic surgery helps animals with cancer live longer. The list goes on. CAT scans and ultrasound--the latest in diagnostic techniques; blood banks; arthroscopic, laser and open-heart surgeries; and organ transplants aid the sick pet.