From College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University
It is scary when pets have to face the inevitable surgery and go “under the knife.” The fear felt as a pet owner may be alleviated as veterinarians are now embracing a practice that has been around in human operations for years—one that may cause less harm and less stress for pets. This technique is called minimally invasive surgery (MIS), and it may be the best choice for those pets requiring surgery.
MIS is a surgical technique that makes a small incision in the patient instead of making a large incision that opens the patient up like in open surgery. Using the minimally invasive technique, the surgeon initiates a small incision through the skin and into the body cavity. Then, a scope and camera are used to both visualize and magnify the area being treated. Next, a small, specialized instrument is used to perform the surgery within the patient.
Minimally invasive surgery offers many benefits that are not available in open surgery. The incision is not as large as in open surgery, which will cause pets less pain. Pets will be able to go home sooner as a result of the smaller incision, which has a faster healing process. In most cases, pets can go home the same day or the next day because of the shortened recovery period.
Dr. Tige Witsberger, faculty of small animal surgery at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has performed several minimally invasive surgeries, and is optimistic about the growth MIS has had within the world of veterinary medicine.
“Just like in humans, MIS is becoming more popular in veterinary medicine because it allows the pet to be more comfortable with a smaller incision,” explains Witsberger. “In addition, a great advantage is the superior visualization achieved by the magnified camera view. Finally, some procedures can be performed more quickly because opening and closure time is greatly reduced.”
The two most common types of surgeries performed through MIS are spaying procedures and gastropexies.
Some animals are better candidates for MIS. The size, health condition and type of surgery a pet is having will determine if MIS is a good option for any pet.
“Ideally, pets undergoing MIS are larger to allow for easier placement of portals and scopes,” said Witsberger. “However, it is possible to perform MIS in small dogs and cats.”
MIS cannot be performed on pets that already have excessive bleeding or pets who need to remove massive amounts of tissue.
As with any surgery, there are always risks to consider before making a decision.
“The biggest risk is inadvertent puncture of the abdominal organ during placement of the needle or instruments in the abdominal procedure,” said Witsberger. “This most commonly happens to the spleen, and bleeding results. Usually, this can be controlled by simply applying pressure, but conversion to an open procedure is possible in severe cases. Another risk occurs because the abdomen must be filled with air for visualization in laparascopy, or the lungs may collapse when performing thorascopy. In addition, anesthetic or cardiac complications are possible.”
A disadvantage to MIS is some surgeries may be more costly than open surgeries as the equipment and the expertise needed is very expensive. However, sometimes the hospital stay is shorter, so the final cost is equivalent to that of an open surgery.
While MIS may be an option for many pets, it is not for everyone. Be sure to ask your veterinary surgeon if MIS is appropriate for your pet’s procedure.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at http://tamunews.tamu.edu. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2010 issue