Speed demon surgeons may not sound like your pets’ best friend, but let’s not be too hasty now…sometimes it really is the best medicine.

In some surgical residency programs they teach the mantra, “time is trauma under anesthesia.” In other words, the longer a patient is out, the higher the risk of complications.

And statistically, that’s true. The longer a pet is under anesthesia the higher the rate of anesthetic complications and infections.

But what about a surgeon taking their time? Isn’t that what we really need them to do?

No doubt many delicate procedures require triple-checking and a deft set of hands. And every surgeon’s got their ideal pace. What seems like “rushing” to one surgeon may be the standard operating procedure of the next. And it may seem to you that the more cautious surgeon is the more competent one…but not always.

Imagine you need a bleeding spleen out of an abdomen—fast! Without the speed, skill and, yes, sometimes recklessness, to make that happen, our patients may die. Gunshot wounds, hit-by-cars, bleeding masses—all of these require SPEED.

Remember the post I wrote on the Guinness Book of World Record seeking vet with a goal of neutering fifty cats in a few hours’ time?

Some of you were horrified by the glorification of surgical speed over proficiency and quality. But speed doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality—not always, anyway.

Slow when you need to be, fast when you don’t. That’s what I was taught. When you do and when you don’t is a judgment call every surgeon has to make—and that takes experience.

Then there’s the issue of practice: If you’re never practicing your speed, how can you ever recall it when you really need it?

My take? I speed-demon the most routine elements of routine procedures, especially the stitching. This helps to keep up my speedy skills for the horrible emergency cases unable to afford a veterinary surgeon’s skills and experience. I also knit fast to keep my fingers nimble—it helps.

Sure, I only see about one crazy surgical case a month but if the Speedy Gonzalez in me isn’t ready for it I might as well pull out the euthanasia solution on some of these cases.

There are trade-offs in every line of work for every single skill we might ever seek to master. Speed and caution may seem like they qualify as trade-offs but rest assured, sometimes that speed-demon surgeon really has your pets’ best interest in mind.