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Vet clinic’s services expanding to include critical care

Maureen McMichael and Lindsey Greten
Photo by
L. Brian Stauffer

Critical critters Maureen McMichael (left), a professor of veterinary clinical medicine and emergency room director, and fourth-year veterinary student Lindsey Greten, perform an examination on a dog in the new critical care area at the Small Animal Clinic. The clinic's new service will allow "criticalists" to not only treat badly injured animals, but coordinate ongoing specialized care.

« Click photo to enlarge

INSIDE ILLINOIS, June 2, 2011 |  By Mike Helenthal, Assistant Editor  [ Email | Share ]

The UI Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Small Animal Clinic is expanding its services to include critical care.

While the hospital has always been a place to get a cat scanned, it’s now also the place to get a CAT scan and access to any other high-tech medical tool a pet might need in an emergency.

“We have some really cool equipment,” said Maureen McMichael, a professor of veterinary clinical medicine, who directs the clinic’s emergency room. “The capabilities in the UI’s small animal ER and critical-care service rival those found in human critical-care settings.”

The emergency room, which never closes, was opened nearly four years ago and is overseen by McMichael and Mauria O’Brien. But the new critical-care function is the result of new equipment and the addition of two critical-care residents, Thandeka Ngwenyama and Jennifer Herring.

McMichael said the new service, similar to a human intensive-care unit, allows ER workers to perform all life-saving functions and coordinate specialized care. In the past, ER patients were rapidly stabilized and transferred for specialty procedures or other long-term care.

“Sometimes there’s a case that needs the continuous monitoring that ‘criticalists’ excel in,” she said. “Now the critical care service will be able to take those transfers from other services.”

In addition to a state-of-the-art human ventilator and other high-tech critical-care equipment, the clinic also has expanded its blood bank.

McMichael said the need for the critical-care service has increased along with the number of clients.

“The emergency room is getting busier and busier, and there have been more and more critical cases,” she said. “It’s progressively gone up every month.”

She estimated the number of cases, which come from area residents and veterinary clinic referrals, has more than doubled since the opening of the emergency room – from about 125 patients per month to nearly 300.

She said the current growth area has been in the treatment of exotic animals – as evidenced in the recent X-ray given to a rare and bloated frog brought in to the clinic.

“We’re slowly starting to expand, but getting the word out has been challenging,” she said. “I run into people all the time who have no idea what we do out here. If I had a broken tractor I guess I probably wouldn’t think about bringing it in to the College of Engineering, either.

“The bottom line is, we’ll take any case, any time, from anywhere.”

To deal with the uptick, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital also has created a pre-registration system that lets pet owners create a medical file that’s accessible during an emergency.

Instead of having to provide pertinent information during a crisis, owners may simply swipe a key-card at the reception desk to make the information instantly available to hospital staff. The procedure, completed through an online form before an emergency occurs, also eliminates the regular $13 new-patient registration fee.

“The last thing you want to have to do in an emergency is fill out a form,” McMichael said.

And for those wondering how the frog’s X-rays turned out, there were no internal injuries and nothing broken; it turns out the “bloat” was due to infection.

A frog-sized round of antibiotics is expected to have him up and hopping in no time.


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