Interventional Cardiology at ACCESS | San Fernando Valley!

Charlie, a Labrador Retriever puppy, was found by her owners at a local animal shelter in Woodland Hills. From the moment they laid eyes on her, they were in love! This energetic young pup had stolen the hearts of everyone she encountered. Unfortunately, a visit to their primary veterinarian’s office revealed that they may be something wrong with her three-month-old heart. Her doctor detected a loud heart murmur; so Charlie and her new family were referred to see Dr. Steven Cole, a board-certified veterinary cardiologist and criticalist at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital in the San Fernando Valley.

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Dr. Cole confirmed that Charlie had a PDA, or patent ductus arteriosus, which is a congenital vascular communication between the aorta and pulmonary artery. This is normal for humans and animals in the womb, however in some cases, this vessel fails to close normally at the time of birth. If left untreated, a PDA can cause severe cardiac enlargement, and eventual congestive heart failure (fluid in the lungs), or pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs). In fact, most dogs with an untreated PDA do not survive the first few years of life.

Although Charlie’s happy go lucky puppy personality didn’t show any signs of the PDA affecting her, she had significant heart enlargement, and it was likely that she would develop more serious complications if her condition went untreated. While a PDA was once only treatable with open-chest surgery, newer catheter-based procedures have been developed that allow cardiologists to close the abnormal vessel with specially-designed devices. These techniques generally result in an excellent outcome with few complications. Charlie’s parents decided to proceed with the minimally-invasive procedure and to save her life. While these procedures have routinely been performed at ACCESS Los Angeles, 2015, Charlie was the very first patient to be treated in the interventional radiology suite at ACCESS in the San Fernando Valley on February 5, 2015. Dr. Cole set up an additional video screen outside of the suite so that staff members could watch the surgery and learn more about interventional cardiology procedures. About 20 staff members came to view the procedure; all of them blown away by the capabilities of our cardiologists and new equipment.

Using fluoroscopy, Dr. Cole worked with Dr. Jason Arndt, a board-certified cardiologist from ACCESS Los Angeles, to see Charlie’s heart in real time. After being placed under anesthesia, Dr. Cole and Dr. Arndt made an incision that was only a few centimeters long in her hind leg. From there they were able to insert a catheter into the femoral artery and to use a contrast agent to identify and precisely measure the PDA. They were then able to implant a canine ductal occluder device directly into the PDA, effectively sealing the abnormal blood vessel and preventing excess blood flow into the lungs. While similar devices are used in humans, the ductal occlude device used by Dr. Cole is designed specifically for use in canine patients. These devices range in size from three to fourteen millimeters, and this allows for a wide variety of patients to be treated. Drs. Cole and Arndt are also able to use vascular coils to close PDAs in exceedingly small dogs that could otherwise only be treated with open-chest surgery.

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Once the device was placed, complete closure of the PDA was confirmed, and the doctors retracted the catheters, sutured the incision, and began Charlie’s recovery process. The entire procedure took about an hour, and with three technicians and two specialists it went very smoothly. Charlie was up, running around, and she was able to go home to her family the next day.

Charlie’s mom and dad were so happy with the outcome and want everyone to know that there are options to what sounds like a bleak prognosis. They were very thankful for Dr. Cole’s help, but more importantly their primary veterinarian, who noticed an irregularity and referred them to a veterinary specialist.

Shannon Brown
Marketing Coordinator | ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals

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Leo is back in action!

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Leo is a 5 year old French Bulldog who was referred to Dr. Jeremy O’Neill in the neurology department at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital – San Fernando Valley. Leo’s regular veterinarian wanted him to be evaluated by a Neurologist, given his recent difficulty walking and paralysis. Leo had an MRI done, which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within the body. The scan revealed a large herniated disc between his 3rd and 4th lumbar vertebra.

Leo’s family decided they would like to correct the issue with surgery. Leo was placed under anesthesia while Dr. O’Neill performed a hemilaminectomy to remove the herniated disc. He recovered well from anesthesia and is now walking well and recovering at home with his family.

Intervertebral disc disease is one of the most common spinal cord conditions in dogs. The neurologic signs can be span from minor back pain to something as serious as paralysis. Based on the type of disc herniation and MRI findings, treatment can vary from medical to surgical options.

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The Disney fanatic who became an RVT.

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Drew Lane is part of the surgery team at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital in the San Fernando Valley. This former fisherman from Maine now resides in California, working alongside the skilled hand of Dr. Jana Norris and has found his home in the veterinary world. Drew recently became a Registered Veterinary Technician and we wanted to hear all about it!

Drew came into the veterinary field as most people do, wanting to find a sense of purpose in his work, with a company that held similar values. Drew graduated with a BA in Journalism from Messiah College in Pennsylvania. After graduation, he had been working in retail until he decided to pursue something he was passionate about—helping animals. He had been working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty referral hospital when he decided to further his career.

Why did he decide to become an RVT?
As a self-proclaimed overachiever, Drew wanted to get certified for something he adores. He is proud to have a degree and a certificate in two separate fields that interest him. He worked very hard to get to where he is today, telling us “you have to go through a two year program at an AVMA accredited college for the technician program, completing two years of school and one semester of field work. I was working 40 hours a week plus going to school.” After completing the program, one must to apply to take two separate tests. Once the application has been approved, it’s time to take those tests (which each cost close to $300.00)! The state test requires knowledge of state law, and the national test encompasses nursing, anesthesia, dentistry, surgery, microbiology, pharmacology, and diagnostic imaging. Once the exams are passed, it could take a few weeks to receive the certificate. Drew also holds an Anprolene® certification, which means he is qualified to use Anprolene®, a sterilizing agent, to clean and sterilize medical tools and equipment.

What is Drew’s favorite animal?
Geriatric pugs! Drew loves, as he affectionately puts it, “crusty old pugs.” In his eyes, “older animals have a ton of emotional energy, even though they may not have the same physical energy.” Drew adopted his first little old man when he was working at a clinic in Pennsylvania. The police had found a loveable senior pug, abandoned in a parking lot and suffering from heat stroke. They took him to the vet, where after a few days in the hospital the pug, now named Dug, won Drew over. Dug lived the sweet life with his new dad for over a year before saying goodbye.

What does Drew like most about being an RVT?
He likes seeing all of the advances made in veterinary medicine in just the past fifteen years and really likes specialty medicine. As a vegetarian, Drew has very strong feelings about animal rights, and feels at home working in a place where he can “take care of animals that truly need help.”

Any tips for aspiring veterinary technicians?
“Ask questions if you don’t know something because you will always have intelligent people around you and ask for hands on experience. Challenge yourself!”

Between finishing school, his regular work schedule, and being on-call for emergencies, its surprising Drew has had any time to relax! What does this busy bee do to unwind? It should come as no surprise that this animal lover’s favorite place is the house of mouse—Disney! When Drew lived in Florida, he visited Disney World about a dozen times. Now that he lives here, he goes to Disneyland at least twice a week! Drew even has an Instagram account dedicated to all things Disney, including some amusing mishaps. Ever the well-rounded individual, Drew also enjoys the theater, landscape photography, and outdoor activities. We are so excited to congratulate another staff member who has made the choice to further their education, continues to uphold our principles, and who is an all around kind, intelligent, and dedicated person. Congratulations, Drew Lane!

We tip our hats to the other ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital employees who became Registered Veterinary Technicians this year – Kristen Cervantes, Gabe Esparza, and Dani Meyer – congratulations on achieving your goals!

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The Surgeon with the skull collection…

Jana-Norris-DVM-DACVS-ASFVJana Norris, DVM, DACVS joined our San Fernando Hospital in January 2013 to head up our new surgery department, though her road to veterinary surgery had quite a few twists and turns in it. Jana grew up as a child actor working in theater and received her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from USC. After working as an actor for a few years, she literally “woke up one day and didn’t want to do it anymore”. We sat down with Jana to find out what led her to ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals.

How did Dr. Norris decide she wanted to work with animals?
When she was acting, her dream was to land a sitcom and make enough money to move to the country and live around animals. Jana decided to cut out the middleman and go right into veterinary school.

What is her favorite animal?
The Octopus. Why? “They can change color depending on their mood, they are the smartest invertebrates, able to learn a task in a single trial and remember it for the rest of their lives, and they can fit through a hole the size of their own eyeball!”

Why surgery?
Jana has always been into fixing things and finding out how they work. As a child, she used to like playing with tools, and even took apart the TV and phone, much to her parents’ dismay. She really enjoys “the structural approach to disease”. The chronic, inevitable decline of patients is too emotionally taxing, whereas surgery is repairing the issue at hand. Jana sees surgeons as “the cowboys of the hospital”; they’re able to come in, take a patient, and fix the problem they’re presented with.

What are the most challenging procedures Dr. Norris has ever done?
“Any critical care patient is stressful, because you know that there is a risk that what you’re about to do to help them has the potential to be unsuccessful, but they will not survive without your treatment.”

What is her favorite procedure to do?
Dr. Norris is heavily influenced by her past, enjoying ‘putting things back together’. In her words, her favorite procedures have to be “fracture repair and skin grafting & reconstruction!” The procedures are the same as they are with humans, and Jana enjoys being able to be creative with both art and structure to reestablish form and function with the surgical procedure.

What is her “bread and butter”?
“Cruciates! They are so well researched and such a common injury. We have excellent outcomes with the right approach, and when done correctly, have a 100% success rate.”

Why California?
Jana lived in California for 17 years before moving to the East Coast. She eventually ended up in Philadelphia, where she worked at the University of Pennsylvania with her then future husband, ACCESS Cardiologist Dr. Steve Cole. She loved California and what it had to offer, so after marrying Dr. Cole in Switzerland and having their reception at the Mutter Museum(!), Jana and her new family moved back to the sunny scenery of California.

Wait… they had their reception at the Mutter Museum?!
They sure did! Dr. Norris has a fondness for things many people would consider…unusual. She has a collection of 40 skulls, both human and animal. The smallest skull she owns is that of a vampire bat, and the largest bone structure is the entire spine of a calf. She even has a fully articulated canine skeleton in her living room! When she was a pre-vet student at Santa Monica College, she supervised a dermestid beetle colony. The dermestid, or carrion, beetles are used to clean bones as they are the most effective tool to clean the bone while also preserving it.

So, she has a skull and bone collection. What else is she into?
Dr. Norris’ home is quite the showcase for out of the ordinary collectibles. In addition to animal and human bones, she also has an array of vintage medical equipment and posters. Her collection includes decades old handheld Oster clippers, speculums, and glass syringes that are seen as pieces of art in her house.

What is her most prized possession?
“My father’s medical kit from the 1940s.” Dr. Norris’ Dad, Dr. Norris, is a Rheumatologist and gave his black doctor’s bag to Jana. Inside you’ll find a stainless steel emergency tracheostomy kit. It’s basically a Swiss Army Knife with tools used to stab, cut, and intubate a choking patient.

What’s her favorite dish?
“Beef tenderloin, rare, with my mom’s white spaghetti”. Dr. Norris also loves to cook and her Rum Cake is her specialty. She makes a ton of them around the holidays, as her family and friends are constantly requesting her delicious dessert!

Dr. Norris is one of over a dozen skilled and interesting doctors at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospitals, and we are so grateful to have her on our team. She brings a fierce dedication, wealth of knowledge, and passionate enthusiasm to each day she works and is available Tuesday through Friday.

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A dog’s journey from a bush to the Cardiology dept.

Roscoe is a three year old male terrier mix who was found as a stray. He was hiding in a bush behind a Good Samaritan’s house, where he sought shelter from the cold spring rain. He was scared, hungry, and guarded. After quite some time, though, the homeowner was able to lure Roscoe out from behind the bush and began looking for his original owner.

This proved unsuccessful, and she took Roscoe to the shelter in the hopes that his owners would look there for him. When his time was up at the shelter, it became apparent that no one was coming for Roscoe. The Good Samaritan—Clarice— adopted Roscoe and took him to the neighborhood veterinarian, who detected a very large heart murmur. Clarice and Roscoe were then referred to ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital in the San Fernando Valley to see Dr. Steve Cole in the cardiology department.

Roscoe was diagnosed with patent ductus ateriosus (PDA), which is a congenital vascular communication between the aorta and pulmonary artery. If left untreated, a PDA can cause severe cardiac enlargement, fluid in the lungs, or high blood pressure. In fact, most dogs with a PDA do not survive the first few years of life.

After presenting Roscoe’s owner with all of the information, she opted for a minimally invasive surgery to correct the PDA. Dr. Cole performed the procedure with Dr. Jason Arndt from ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital – Los Angeles cardiology department in our interventional radiology suite in Los Angeles, which happens to be the first purpose-built interventional radiology suite for animals on the West Coast! Here, the doctors were able to utilize fluoroscopy and angiography to perform the procedure with minimally invasive tools. This allowed them to see in real time exactly where the necessary catheters were to be placed. A small incision was made on Roscoe’s leg, and from there Dr. Cole and Dr. Arndt were able to close the opening with a small device through the femoral artery. Roscoe recovered well and was discharged from the hospital the next day.

His prognosis is excellent since the device successfully closed the abnormal blood vessel. Roscoe’s family was able to proceed with the surgery with funding from The Big Hearts Fund, a wonderful 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for pets diagnosed with heart disease.

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(Top left photo Credit for Roscoe goes to the The Big Hearts Fund.)

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ACCESS scared up some fun this Halloween!

Over a dozen pumpkins, a few bales of hay, and a ton of candy helped make another memorable Halloween at our hospitals! We kicked off our Halloween celebrations with a party for our staff and their families at our San Fernando Valley hospital in our conference center. Here, we saw super heroes, witches, and… you guessed it…doctors!

Kids enjoyed painting pumpkins and watching Hocus Pocus, while everyone enjoyed our DIY photo booth, our pot-luck dinner, and of course, lots of candy! We had a ghoulishly good time and enjoyed spending time with one another.

The fun continued with our annual pumpkin carving contest at ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital – Los Angeles. Each department received one pumpkin to carve into a creepy creation and once it was finished, it was placed in the lobby for staff and clients to vote. Our team had an opportunity to showcase their creativity.

As a result ,we had some amazing entries for the pumpkin carving contest this year! The winner of the 2014 ACCESS Specialty Animal Hospital Pumpkin Carve-Off was…Surgery with 24 votes! With the skilled hand of Dr. Annie Lo, surgery was sure to be fierce competition. We enjoy spending the holidays with fun activities as well as being here to serve our communities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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Congratulations are in order…STAT!

Having completed veterinary school, an internship, a residency in emergency and critical care, and a written examination with a required publication accepted by peer-reviewed journals, Dr. Lee has achieved board certification. All of this requires years of hard work, long, late hours, and an unyielding commitment to get the job done!

We want to offer hearty congratulations to Joyce Lee, MS, DVM, DACVECC who has been with us since the opening of our San Fernando Valley location. She will continue to be a source of knowledge, positivity, and compassion in our Emergency and Critical Care department.

Dr.-Joyce-Lee

 

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Halloween can be scary for pets. Tips on how to care for them…

It’s spooky time again.

But did you know Halloween can be scary for pets? However, with a little planning and information, you and your pets can celebrate safely.

Click on the images below to download our Halloween Pet Safety tips. These ‘free printables’ can be printed with ease! Stick one on your fridge as a reminder, then share them with your friends, at school, or at your place of work.

Be safe and have fun…

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