Olivia's torn diaphragm case

Olivia is a 10 year old domestic long hair cat who was brought to the Reservoir Veterinary Clinic as she was very quiet at home and had collapsed. Her owner was unsure what had happened to her as she was happy and healthy earlier in the day. Upon examination she had an increased respiratory rate and her mucous membranes were pale. A radiograph was taken of her chest and it revealed that her diaphragm was torn. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that extends across the bottom of the ribcage and separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. If this is torn then the abdominal contents are able to move in to the patient's thorax where the heart and lungs are located and thus will restrict the lungs from inflating properly. It was suspected that Olivia had either been attacked by a dog or suffered a blunt trauma somehow.

Olivia was stabilised on an intravenous fluid drip to help maintain her blood pressure and counteract shock. Shock can occur in pets just like in humans. Shock is a critical condition brought on by a sudden drop in blood flow through the body. This can therefore affect the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs. She was also given some pain relief to ensure she was comfortable.

Once Olivia was stable, Dr Raj and Dr Andrea performed surgery on her to repair the diaphragmatic hernia. Nurses Sommer and Lauren monitored her anaesthetic and assisted with her breathing by ventilating for Olivia while the hernia was repaired. Olivia had torn her diaphragm in several places and the muscles on the left hand side of her chest were also torn. Once Dr Andrea had repaired the tears she needed to ensure that Olivia's chest was ‘sealed'. This means that there was no free air in her chest which is called a pneumothorax. If a patient does have a pneumothorax, then the patient's lungs are unable to expand and oxygenate the blood.

Olivia's recovery was very slow, which was to be expected as she had a major operation and she was an older patient. During her recovery she was constantly monitored by Nurse Sommer or Janelle. She required oxygen supplementation and very strong pain relief. Her temperature dropped very low during the surgery so the nursing team worked hard to warm her up and maintain her temperature. Once Olivia was warm and not in any pain she became responsive to voices and touch but was still groggy from her ordeal.

Olivia was not stable to go home that night so she was transferred to an after hours emergency centre for ongoing monitoring and treatment. The following day she was doing fantastically and was even trying to chew out her stitches. She remained at the after hours emergency centre for two nights and then was sent home.

Olivia returned to the clinic 10 days after her surgery and was doing really well at home. Her owners are happy as she is starting to play again like she did before her accident.