Near-Fatal Misuse of Medical Tape

Near fatal misuse of medical tape around an endotracheal tube connector during inhalation anesthesia in a horse

Adhesive and cohesive tape use and application in animal health can include recovery from major procedures and surgeries.  While not all of these procedures can be analyzed and shared, sometimes veterinarians and caregivers are able to review these instances and come up with valuable advice for care practitioners. 

This summary relates to a case study paper from 2012, where a 7-year-old gelded Irish sports horse was anesthetized on 2 consecutive days to treat a septic right radio-carpal joint.

On both of the anesthesia treatments, caregivers performed a lavage of the area.  The patient’s endotracheal tube connector was bound in medical tape to produce an airtight seal during these procedures.  This caused the tube to function as a 1-way valve during ventilation, producing positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP), and some degree of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).  This was not the intended effect of the setup, and according to the authors, could have put the patient at risk.  Caregivers saw increases in airway pressure and thoracic distension, but fortunately, the patient survived and made a full recovery.

In this case, the medical tape was misapplied and could have led to a serious side effect during or after the procedure.  Thankfully, the authors of this paper were able to publish their findings and share the potential risk of misapplication of medical tape in a common equine procedure.

Is this risk something you look out for in your practice?  If so, we’d love to connect with you and hear about it.  Let us know about your approach!

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