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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
Print version ISSN 1019-9128


LEUNG, Jessica et al. A simple method to provide positive end expiratory pressure to treat hypoxaemia in an anaesthetised Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus). J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. [online]. 2021, vol.92, n.1, pp.1-4. ISSN 2224-9435.

Hypoxaemia is a common complication in anaesthetised or immobilised elephants. It is presumably because of hypoventilation and ventilation-perfusion mismatch. To prevent hypoxaemia, orotracheal intubation and positive pressure ventilation are recommended. This case report describes a hypoxaemic period despite positive pressure ventilation in a 46-year-old female Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) anaesthetised with azaperone-etorphine, medetomidine and an etorphine constant rate infusion in lateral recumbency for a dental procedure. The hypoxaemia was corrected utilising positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 5 cm - 10 cm H2O, a technique that has not previously been reported in the management of anaesthetised elephants. PEEP decreases atelectasis, shunt fraction, and increases lung compliance. Positive end-expiratory pressure was achieved by partial occlusion of the tailpiece of a manually triggered demand valve ventilator during expiration. This is a simple effective method of generating PEEP and correcting hypoxaemia without the need for any additional specialised equipment. However, PEEP decreased arterial blood pressure and should be implemented with caution if arterial blood pressure is not monitored.

Keywords : anaesthesia; Asian elephant; Elephas maximus; hypoxaemia; Positive end-expiratory pressure; ventilation.

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