Cutting Edge Technology Lessens Pain of Surgery!

laprascopySurgery is a scary thought for anyone, but advances in human medicine are helping to make patients more comfortable and shortening stays in the hospital.  Even our pets are now benefiting from these improvements!

New drugs and medical equipment are making our pets more comfortable before, during, and after surgeries.  The use of laparoscopes in veterinary medicine is just one more example of how advancing technology is helping our pets.   Also known as minimally invasive surgery, laparoscopy is reducing the pain of surgery and even helping to save lives!

In the sci-fi thriller, “Fantastic Voyage,” doctors and scientists are miniaturized and injected into a fellow scientist in order to save his life.  We may need more time to develop that type of technology, but cutting edge innovations are making their way into veterinary offices, providing a higher level of care for our pets. Laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive type of procedure, was first performed on a dog in 1902!  In the intervening years, human surgeons have perfected techniques to removal gall bladders, relieve the discomfort of endometriosis, and even help individuals with morbid obesity.  Many of these techniques have been adapted by veterinary surgeons as well.

A laparoscope consists of a telescoping rod and lens system connected to a video camera and light source.  The surgeon inserts the laparoscope into the patient through a tiny (less than 1 inch long) incision.  The abdomen is then filled with carbon dioxide to create space to work.  Additional attachments, such as scissors, retractors, and devices for placing sutures are introduced and manipulated to complete the surgery.

The biggest benefit to laparoscopic surgery is the reduced need for a large incision in the abdomen.  In the case of human gall bladder removal, traditional surgeries would create an incision about 8 inches long.   With the latest laparoscope, 4 incisions, all less than ½ inch, will suffice to remove the gall bladder.  Smaller incisions mean shorter recovery time, shorter hospital stays, and, above all, less pain.

Veterinarians have seen these benefits and are anxious to export them to our pets.   According to Dr. Markee Kuschel, a veterinarian with the Deer Creek Animal Hospital in Colorado, laparoscopic surgery is becoming a viable alternative for pet owners wanting to provide a human-level of surgical care for their pets.

Surgeries that are considered “routine” by pet owners and veterinarians, such as spaying a female dog or cat, are now considered good candidates for the laparoscope.  Dr. Kuschel states “…the advanced technique of laparoscopic assisted surgery enables better visualization and a reduced chance of hemorrhage during a routine spay.”

And Dr. Kuschel is not alone.  Another surgical center in Colorado performed a small study in which 10 dogs were spayed via traditional surgical methods and 10 dogs were spayed with the laparoscope.  The results of this study show that 90% of the traditionally spayed dogs needed additional pain relief medications after surgery whereas none of the dogs in the laparoscopic assisted group did.  Blood concentrations of cortisol, a good indicator of stress levels, increased only in the traditional group.

These findings, as well as her own observations, have led Dr. Kuschel and her associates to eliminate traditional spays at their hospital.  “The price was significantly higher for the laparoscopic assisted procedure, but we actually did the same number of spays from one year to the next.”

“We increased our level of care and now pet owners actively seek out our services because they know and understand the benefits of this cutting edge technology.”

Veterinarians are not only using this revolutionary new tool for spays, but as an aid to help diagnose disease.  Surgeons are able to biopsy internal organs with laparoscopic surgery and the procedure often requires no more than sedation and a local anesthetic.  Previous protocols for biopsies demand general anesthetic and a prolonged recovery time.   With some laparoscopic biopsies, the patient is often ready to go home in less than two hours!

This high tech gadget can actually save lives too!  Many large and giant breeds of dogs are prone to a twisting of the stomach commonly known as “bloat”.   The occurrence of this emergency and extremely painful condition can be often be prevented by tacking the right side of the stomach to the body wall, preventing rotation.  Prior to laparoscopes, veterinarians would perform exploratory surgery, often generating an incision in excess of six or eight inches.  The modern laparoscope allows this potentially life-saving procedure to be accomplished through an incision just one inch long.

tucker and little tucker Although this technology is truly leading edge, don’t expect it to show up in all veterinary offices immediately.  For some veterinarians, the initial set up cost of the equipment and time to learn the techniques may not be affordable.

If you are planning a surgery for your pet, ask your veterinarian about the potential for laparoscopic assisted surgery in your area.  To learn more about the advantages of laparoscopy, visit to see video of an actual procedure.