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By Dr Soo Kuan

What is laparoscopic surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery, or “keyhole” surgery, is a form of minimally invasive surgery of the abdomen. Laparoscopy and laparoscopic-assisted surgery is commonly performed in people, but is also a service offered by the surgeons at SASH. The laparoscope magnifies the abdominal structures allowing improved visualisation and inspection but at the same time reduces post-operative pain resulting in a quicker recovery.

In dogs and cats, a small camera (laparoscope) is inserted into the abdomen near the belly button, through a 1 to 1.5 cm incision. One to three similar sized incisions are made at different points around the abdomen for insertion of a variety of instruments to allow manipulation, biopsy and/or removal of organs or tumours.

Common types of laparoscopic surgeries

Laparoscopic surgeries commonly performed at SASH include cat and dog liver biopsies, dog spey, and dog castration when the testicles are “undescended” and are still within the abdomen. It is also common to perform a laparoscopic-assisted gastropexy (where the stomach is permanently attached to the abdominal wall) for dogs at risk of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV or stomach bloat). This can be done at the same time as desexing operations.

Laparoscopic gall bladder and adrenal tumour removal can also be performed though in some instances an open surgical approach is still required. Laparoscopic-assisted surgery can be used to biopsy intestinal loops or remove some intestinal or other small abdominal tumors.

Laparoscopic surgery advantages

Because of the very small incisions, patients experience less pain during surgery, so lower levels of anaesthetic drugs are required. Patients also recover more quickly and comfortably compared to standard “open” surgery, with most going home on the day of surgery, or within 24-36 hours.

Potential laparoscopic surgery risks

In rare cases, because of poor visualisation, bleeding or larger than expected abnormalities, we may need to convert a laparoscopy to an open abdominal surgery. There is no disadvantage at all to trying to perform a surgery laparoscopically before converting to an open abdominal surgery. 

As with all types of surgery in pets, there are also risks associated with general anaesthesia. However, this risk is minimised through SASH’s team of specialist Anaesthetists that support and closely work together with the Surgery team.

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