26.02.2016: Internationally renowned veterinary anaesthesiologist Paula Larenza-Menzies joined the Vetmeduni Vienna as professor and director of the Clinical Unit of Anaesthesiology and Perioperative Intensive Care. The native of Argentina previously worked at the University of Pennsylvania in the USA and the University of Helsinki in Finland. Her research focuses on the development of safe anaesthetics for small and large animals.
Anaesthesia is a matter of great importance in veterinary medicine. Anaesthetic drugs and techniques are developed for both surgical and diagnostic procedures and adapted for the respective animal species. Effective pain treatment is especially important with animals as they cannot express their pain or fear in words.
Larenza-Menzies is a specialist in the field of veterinary anaesthesia and pain management. Her past research includes the development of a new anaesthetic drug for horses, cats and dogs which possesses better anaesthetic qualities and is more rapidly metabolized than conventional substances. S-ketamine, which has meanwhile received market approval, is a form of ketamine with an improved anaesthetizing effect and good pain relief qualities.
Pain management in veterinary medicine
Besides the development of new and improved anaesthetic agents, pain management is another critical research topic for the Argentinian researcher with Italian roots. “Satisfactory pain management is a matter of importance to me. Pain is a protective mechanism which alerts the body to a problem. But pain during a surgical or diagnostic procedure has an artificial cause. It does not have an alerting function and should therefore not have to be endured. Veterinary anaesthesiologists are specially trained in pain therapy and are often used as consultants by attending veterinarians,” says Larenza-Menzies.
Cooperation in human medicine
Just like animals, small children are also unable to express their feelings in words. For this reason, Larenza-Menzies also cooperates with paediatric anaesthesiologists at Vienna General Hospital. “Paediatricians often face the same communication barriers as veterinarians,” says Larenza-Menzies. “The professional exchange allows us to develop new approaches in pain recognition and patient care.”
Certain anaesthetic drugs promote cancer growth
Not all anaesthetics can be used in patients with cancer. Several anaesthetics have been shown to promote the growth and spread of metastatic disease. This has been known in human medicine for some time and has also been proven in animal testing with mice. Larenza-Menzies is investigating this phenomenon in veterinary medicine by studying the effects of different anaesthetics on the growth of cancer cells.
New intensive care unit for small animals at Vetmeduni Vienna
In addition to her duties as professor, researcher and head of a 35-member team, Larenza-Menzies will also help set up the university’s new intensive care unit for small animals. Her international experience in a variety of different countries and clinics should help turn the new unit into a leading medical and research facility. The grand opening of the new intensive care unit and emergency room is scheduled for this year.
Combining career and family
Larenza-Menzies is a mother of twins since August last year. Her daughter Emily and son Roory are growing up in Vienna and are regular visitors to the university campus. Together with her Australian husband, Robert Menzies, a specialist in veterinary dentistry, the family has been a part of Vetmeduni Vienna since 2015. “Being able to care for our children during work was very important for my husband and me. Here in Vienna it is possible to combine our work with caring for the children. The flexible working times and the possibility to bring the twins to work every now and then help make things easier for us.”
About Paula Larenza-Menzies
Paula Larenza-Menzies was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1971. She studied Veterinary Medicine at La Plata University in Buenos Aires before completing her Ph.D. at the University of Bern in Switzerland. She then went on to conduct research at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and University of Helsinki, Finland, where she was Assistant Professor of Anaesthesia for Small Animals and Horses. Larenza-Menzies has published numerous studies in renowned veterinary journals and is an expert in the development of safe anaesthetics for small and large animals.