Minimally Invasive Procedures: Brutus’ Story

May 19, 2020

Minimally Invasive Procedures: Brutus’ Story

Brutus is a fun-loving chocolate Labrador retriever who keeps his family entertained with his constant energy and zeal for life. He also keeps them on their toes, since he loves to eat anything he can get his paws on. His owners have a pile of rocks on a ledge in the garage they have wrestled from his mouth, and are careful to put guests’ shoes out of reach, but they have lost count of the number of times they have found pieces of the kids’ toys or unidentifiable objects mixed with the piles he leaves in the backyard. It was only a matter of time before Brutus ate something that caused a problem. Fortunately, our Colorado Animal Specialty & Emergency team was able to help when he did. 

A few weeks ago, Brutus stopped eating, and vomited a few times. His astute owners took him to their family veterinarian, who took X-rays, and identified a small toy, which they recognized as one their daughter had noticed missing the day before, in Brutus’ stomach. The toy’s size and shape made passage through Brutus’ intestines unlikely, so the veterinarian recommended immediate removal by surgery or endoscopy. After weighing the options—a surgical incision through Brutus’ skin, muscle, and stomach wall, or introduction of a camera down his throat—the owners were on their way to our hospital for the second option, which is called an endoscopy. 

After Brutus was anesthetized, we were able to pass our endoscope into his stomach to see the toy, and grasp it with forceps passed through the endoscope tubing. We pulled the toy out through Brutus’ mouth, and woke him up before an incision would have been made, had surgery been performed. No incision meant that Brutus woke up with no pain, and could go home a few hours later. By dinnertime, he was back to feeling like himself, although his owners realize how lucky he was, and have vowed to keep all toys safely out of his reach. 

Brutus experienced the benefits of endoscopy—one of many minimally invasive procedures we offer pets. From diagnostics to surgery, we strive to minimize your pet’s discomfort, anesthesia time, and recovery, and minimally invasive procedures help us accomplish that goal. If your pet needs surgery or invasive diagnostic testing, minimally invasive techniques may offer a better alternative. 

How are minimally invasive procedures performed?

Minimally invasive procedures typically use a scope to see inside your pet’s body, instead of making a large incision to gain access to an area. A scope is a rigid or flexible tube with a high-definition camera that can be inserted into a pet’s respiratory or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or through a small incision into the thorax, abdomen, or a joint. The image is transmitted onto a screen and viewed by the surgeon, who can infuse air or water to increase visualization. Additional instruments can be inserted through other small incisions, or passed through the scope tubing to grasp objects, as in Brutus’ case; make incisions; collect tissue and biopsy samples; and place ligatures.  We have various scoping equipment and procedures at our hospital that are used by our veterinarians, depending on each patient’s needs. 

What advantages do minimally invasive procedures offer my pet?

Since minimally invasive techniques involve small or, in some cases, no incisions, multiple benefits are experienced by pets, such as:

  • Less pain — Smaller incisions, and less manipulation and disruption of nearby tissues and organs mean less discomfort for your pet after her procedure. Less pain medication will be needed, and she will be back on her feet again sooner. 
  • Shorter surgery time — Without the need for a large incision, tying off bleeding vessels, and suturing the incision closed, minimally invasive surgery saves precious surgery time, minimizing your pet’s time under anesthesia. 
  • Faster healing — Smaller incisions heal faster, and pets who recover from minimally invasive surgery often resume normal activities more quickly than those who have traditional surgery. However, keep in mind that your pet’s skin incisions may have healed, but not her internal incisions, so follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding activity restrictions after her procedure. 

What procedures can be performed using minimally invasive techniques?

A number of procedures that once required more invasive diagnostic tests or traditional surgery can now be performed using minimally invasive techniques, including:

Veterinary Minimally Invasive Procedures
  • Foreign body removal
  • GI tract examination  
  • Airway examination
  • Tissue sample, or biopsy collection
  • Arthroscopic surgery
  • Gastropexy
  • Ovariohysterectomy
  • Ovariectomy
  • Pericardial window creation
  • Lung lobectomy

How do I know if my pet is a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure or surgery?

While we use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible, traditional surgery is still the best option for some procedures. Our team of board-certified specialists will assess your pet’s condition, and determine what procedure will provide the best outcome. If your dog is like Brutus, and is in trouble after eating something she shouldn’t, or if she requires surgery, contact us to see if minimally invasive techniques can get her back on her feet more quickly.