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Minimally Invasive Surgery in Veterinary Medicine: Applications and Benefits

Jun 29 • 3 minute read

Surgery is understandably a major source of anxiety for pet owners. They worry about anesthesia, pain, recovery time, and the risk of complications. This fear may be alleviated as veterinarians are continually embracing a cutting-edge practice that has been used in human medicine for a few decades—one that is safe, effective, and may cause less stress for pets and their owners. This procedure is known as minimally invasive surgery.

What is Minimally Invasive Surgery for in Veterinary Medicine?

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is a technologically advanced surgical technique used by veterinarians to operate with less trauma to the body than with open surgery. This is accomplished through small incisions that are approximately 5 to 20 mm long. The small incisions create an access point for special surgical instruments.

A thin, tube-like instrument with a high-definition video camera and light on the end is inserted through one incision to guide the surgery. The device transmits images from within the body onto a screen that the surgeon can view. This tool can be a laparoscope, endoscope, or arthroscope.

Tiny surgical instruments are then inserted into the body cavity through other incisions to collect tissue samples or perform surgery.

Common Minimally Invasive Procedures for Pets

While MIS does not apply to all surgical operations, many veterinarians use this technique whenever it’s appropriate to reduce treatment time and minimize your pet’s pain and recovery period. Common minimally invasive procedures for pets include:

  • Thoracoscopy for the chest cavity
  • Arthroscopy for joints
  • Laparoscopy for the abdomen and pelvis area
  • Otoscopy for ear complaints
  • Rhinoscopy for the nasal passage
  • Cystoscopy for the urinary tract

These procedures can be used to examine structures and organs, perform biopsies, diagnose issues, remove masses, and treat problems without large incisions.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery

These cutting-edge techniques improve your pet’s surgical experience in numerous ways, including:

  • Less tissue trauma – With MIS, the surgeon can gain access to your pet’s internal body cavities and organs using a few incisions only millimeters in length. Smaller incisions mean less disruption and manipulation of nearby tissues and organs. This results in less scarring externally and internally.
  • Less pain, less medication – Minimally invasive surgery causes less post-operative pain and discomfort than that experienced with open surgery. This can be attributed to the use of smaller incisions and decreased tissue disruptions. And since your pet will experience less pain, they will require smaller doses of pain medication, which has its own benefits.
  • Increased accuracy – Another benefit of minimally invasive procedures is the enhanced visualization of the surgical site. The high-definition cameras can be manipulated under, behind, and around organs and structures, allowing the surgeon to get a better view of the area they’re operating on. The advanced instruments used in MIS allow for a more accurate and definitive procedure.
  • Shorter recovery time – MIS greatly reduces your pet’s healing and recovery time. Because there are no long incisions and severe tissue trauma, the wound will heal much faster than it would with traditional surgery. That means that your pet can return to their normal activities more quickly, but you need to follow your vet’s instructions on activity restrictions post-surgery.
  • Decreased risk of complications – Bleeding-related complications are minimized when incisions are reduced to millimeters instead of several inches. Your pet is also less likely to get an infection.

Final Thoughts

While minimally invasive surgery cannot be used for every procedure, it can be a great option if your vet believes it will provide the best outcome. This procedure allows the surgeon to operate with more precision and control. It is associated with less impact on the body, shorter hospital stays, less pain, less bleeding, and fewer complications.

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