Keyhole (Laparoscopic) Surgery
Laparoscopy, commonly known as keyhole surgery, is the practice of operating through ports in the body wall rather than directly through an incision. Keyhole surgery is considered minimally invasive and is commonplace for many procedures.
During keyhole surgery sterile carbon dioxide gas is used to inflate the abdomen, lifting the body wall away from the organs. A camera is inserted through the first port, allowing us to visualise the organs clearly, and instruments are inserted through the other ports to perform the surgery.
What are the benefits of keyhole surgery?
The biggest difference between keyhole and open surgery is the very small wound sizes used for keyhole procedures. Most ports used are only 5-10mm in diameter and typically 2-3 ports are used depending on the procedure.
Additionally, the camera allows a very clear view of what is happening deep in the body, unlike some open surgeries where getting a clear view can be challenging. Inserting the instruments to the organs (rather than lifting organs to the incision) also causes less nerve stimulation.
Both these factors mean that keyhole surgery:
- Is less painful than open surgery
- Has faster recovery times
Studies show that dogs who had keyhole neutering procedures are both more active, and active sooner than those which had routine (open surgery) neutering procedures.
What surgeries for pets can be performed via keyhole?
The procedures offered will depend on the individual clinic, but usually include:
- Neutering (ovariectomy) for female dogs
- Removal of retained abdominal testicles
- Gastropexy to help prevent GDV (bloat) in large breed dogs
- Abdominal and chest exploratory surgery for diagnosis and treatment of disease
- Biopsy of the abdominal organs, such as the liver or kidneys
Are there any restrictions for keyhole surgery?
Keyhole is most beneficial for large breed dogs or those who are very bouncy, however all pets can benefit from a less invasive approach. Keyhole surgery is challenging in small pets as there is less room to manoeuvre the instruments, and sometimes smaller equipment is required. Lower weight limits vary, dependant on equipment and patient body shape; if you have a smaller dog your vet or nurse will be able to advise further.
Are there any risks with keyhole surgery?
Keyhole surgery requires a general anaesthetic, which carries a very small risk even in a healthy patient. The main complication specific to keyhole surgery is accidental damage to organs while placing the ports. This is uncommon in experienced hands and is rarely serious if it does occur. Wound infections are also a possibility – even though keyhole wounds are small, it is still important that your pet does not interfere with them for 10 days post operatively to prevent infection.