Anesthetic related deaths are devastating to owners and veterinary staff.
Without a post-mortem you would not know the exact cause of death. There may have been underlying cardiac disease that was unmasked with anesthesia: cardiac arrhythmias can be induced by drugs that irritate the heart muscle or interfere with the pacemaker system of the heart. A blood clot could have been formed under these circumstances: impaired heart contractility/rhythm allows for the formation of clots. Prior blood testing/ x-ray films/ultrasound probably would not have shown this tendency.
Heart biopsy may have revealed the problem, but is not realistic as a pre-screening device for anesthesia. The mortality/morbidity would be too high a risk to be used as a screening device.
Anesthetic deaths are usually very low statistically, but if it is your pet, then it is profoundly painful.
Dr. Van Lienden
Dr. Raymond Van Lienden DVM
The Animal Clinic of Clifton
12702 Chapel Road, Clifton
Virginia, U.S.A. 20124