Minimally-invasive surgery for pets.

By Seth Ganz, DVM, DACVS.

Nobody enjoys the prospect of having to undergo a surgical procedure. The possibility of pain and being kept from the activities we enjoy is plain scary. The same goes for our pets. As human medicine and surgery is turning to less invasive methods of diagnosing and treating various conditions, we are bringing the benefits of minimally-invasive surgery to our pets.

The benefits are more than just a smaller scar (I don’t think my dog Winter is too self-conscious, what with her underbite and one eye). Minimally-invasive techniques often allow us to see with more magnification and detail, especially in tight spaces, and may be less painful than traditional alternatives.

Trained veterinarians routinely evaluate the gastrointestinal tract, abdominal and chest cavities, airways, urinary tract and joints with specialized equipment. Depending on the condition, sometimes the goal is to make a diagnosis. Other times the treatment can be done at the same time, avoiding more invasive surgery. Minimally-invasive techniques have also been developed for treatment of some inherited orthopedic conditions.

One example is the use of arthroscopy. Over the last couple of decades, most board-certified veterinary surgeons have moved away from surgically opening the elbow and shoulder joints of dogs to treat various joint diseases. We now place a small camera in to the joint of interest and can use the camera and instruments to do things like remove painful loose cartilage and bone fragments.

This field is still evolving in both the human and veterinary arenas, and many surgeries are still performed in a traditional fashion if that is deemed the safest course for a given situation. But stay tuned, as this is an evolving field. Hopefully with more advances we will be able to help even more while hurting less! 

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