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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Dr. Miller Investigating Novel Feline Spay Technique

January 30th, 2014

Dr. Kirk Miller supervises CVM students on rotation at the Oregon Humane Society Animal Medical Learning Center.

Dr. Kirk Miller is an instructor on the CVM faculty, but you may not recognize him if you’ve never been to the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) in Portland. Dr. Miller is a veterinarian at the OHS Animal Medical Learning Center, where he spends most of his work day teaching surgery skills to fourth-year students.

Students on clinical rotation at OHS spend three weeks there, half the time in medicine and half in surgery. By the time they leave, they will have performed more than fifty surgeries. “I like seeing them learn,” says Miller. “I like to see where they start, in terms of their skills, and where they end. They are kind of nervous and shaky the first day, but by the end, they are doing a great job.”

Like most faculty, Dr. Miller’s contract requires he also conduct research with the goal of publishing and advancing the veterinary profession. Not surprising, his current research project is focused on surgery in an animal shelter hospital: he is studying a new spay technique for cats.

“Traditionally, the way that everyone is taught to spay a cat, is you double ligate the ovarian pedicles, the main blood vessels to the ovaries,” he says. “For a few years now, some shelter veterinarians who do a high volume of surgery, have started doing what is called a ‘pedicle tie’. For this technique, you tie the ovary on itself with a single hemostat, much the same way we tie the testicular structure in cat neuters. It is thought that this procedure is quicker and easier in a high volume setting.”

But the procedure has not been tested and documented in the veterinary medical literature. “It is taught by the Human Alliance, which teaches a lot of shelter veterinarians how to do high quality, high volume spay and neuter,” says Miller, “but the two main questions are ‘is it safe’ and ‘is it faster’?”

Dr. Miller and VTH surgeon Dr. Milan Milovancev are evaluating 2,000 spay surgeries. First, they want to look at safety. “We want to see if there are any hemorrhagic events because the pedicle is not sufficiently ligated,” says Miller. The second phase of their study will study whether the technique is actually faster. They will simply use a stop watch during both kinds of spay surgery and document the times to see which is faster.

Documenting 2,000 spay surgeries may seem like a long process to the average practice owner, but Miller already has data for 1,200. The Animal Medical Learning Center performs about 7,000 feline spays each year. “The really neat thing about this [study] is that it was already being done here,” says Miller. “All I’m doing is collecting data so it has very little impact on the shelter. I don’t want to slow people down. I don’t want to have a negative impact on shelter operations, or on getting the animals adopted.”

Dr. Miller won’t be be done collecting data until this summer, but he already predicts that the new procedure will shave one to two minutes off traditional surgery time. “In a private practice setting where they are doing maybe five spays a day, it would not have much of an impact,” he says. “In a setting where we do lots of spays every day, it has a big impact.”

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