10 Innovations Vet Medicine Is Borrowing From Human Medicine

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, an innovation in human medicine that can help reduce inflammation and improve tissue healing, is now helping pets, too.

The fact that veterinary medicine is looking to the allied human medical professions for inspiration is a very good thing. After all, the drive to heal humans — not animals — has been the overriding force behind the development of medical innovations since the dawn of time. That’s why “creative mooching,” as I like to call it, affords a way for veterinary medicine to improve animal health by taking lots of its high-tech (and not-so-high-tech) cues from its sister professions.

Read on to learn about 10 newfangled things modern veterinarians are currently adopting from human medicine.

1. Transplant medicine. In addition to blood transfusions, dialysis and skin grafts, we’ve set our sights on bringing kidney, liver and heart transplants to our veterinary patients. But only because we’ve learned how from human medicine. 

2. Checklists. As I intimated earlier, not every item on this list is a high-tech adaptation from human medicine. This one’s actually an engineering solution that arrived by way of human medicine and was popularized by Dr. Atul Gawande in his seminal book, The Checklist Manifesto.

The idea is that medicine’s become so technologically complex that mistakes are happening at a higher rate. Just like a fighter pilot checks off points on his checklist before every flight, so too should veterinarians employ checklists for everything from anesthesia management to laboratory techniques, and even new puppy/kitten visits. (Who can remember everything one needs to talk about during these critical visits?)

3. Antinausea medication. Nausea is not necessarily second to pain when alleviating animal suffering. It’s a really big deal. In fact, without nausea medication, I probably would’ve lost last week’s pancreatitis patient. Thankfully, increasingly effective iterations of these drugs are becoming more widely available to animal medicine.

In large part, I’m told, this increased availability has to do with the prevalence of chemotherapy in humans and the need to address the extreme nausea these protocols too often elicit. As drug companies cycle through the drugs they find effective, many of these medications are being conscripted into veterinary service.

4. Radiation technology. It may sound crazy to you, but in South Florida, where I live, my patients have access to three linear accelerator machines dedicated full-time to irradiating tumors in pets. Cool, right? More so when you consider that plenty of facilities are now starting to offer the Gamma Knife, an even more precise radiation therapy tool for pets with brain tumors.

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