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St. Louis Minimally Invasive Surgery Veterinarians

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Associated Veterinary Specialists Surgery veterinarians provide the highest level of Minimally Invasive Surgery veterinary services in the St. Louis area

In recent years, minimally invasive approaches to surgery have gained popularity in veterinary medicine. Minimally invasive surgery is very common in human medicine, and developments in the veterinary world have allowed these techniques to be utilized in both small and large animals.

Laparoscopy involves the placement of a port, usually 5 mm in diameter, into the abdomen to allow insertion of a camera (laparoscope). The camera is used to visualize the contents of the abdominal cavity. Typically, one or two additional ports are placed to allow insertion of instruments, such as a probe or biopsy forceps. These ports are even smaller than the initial port. Through laparoscopy, we can now spay dogs, perform prophylactic gastropexies, take liver biopsies, and remove retained intra-abdominal testicles (cryptorchid testicles).

Ovariohysterectomy or ovariectomy (spay procedures) are performed in large dogs to decrease the size of incisions and therefore decrease morbidity associated with surgery. In some male dogs, testicles are retained in the abdomen and do not descend normally into the scrotum. In these dogs, laparoscopy can be used to remove the retained testicle so that a larger incision into the abdomen does not have to be made. Laparoscopy also enhances visualization of the testicle to reduce the chance of complications.

Prophylactic gastropexies are often performed in large breed dogs at the same time as a laparoscopic spay or as the sole procedure. Gastropexy is performed in large breed, deep-chested dogs as they are prone to gastric-dilatation and volvulus (GDV). GDV is a life threatening condition that most often happens to middle aged dogs, in which the stomach rotates on itself. Prophylactic gastropexies prevent GDV by creating an adhesion between the body wall and the stomach wall. Prophylactic gastropexy performed in the traditional ‘open’ manner involves a large incision, whereas a gastropexy performed using laparoscopy only results in 2 small incisions.

Many animals suffer from liver disease, and frequently a specific diagnosis cannot be attained until a liver biopsy is performed. As with gastropexy, liver biopsy in the traditional manner involves a large incision to expose the organ for biopsy. Using laparoscopy however, the liver can be visualized and samples can be taken for biopsy and other tests to obtain a specific diagnosis.

Documented advantages of laparoscopy in people include decreased pain, hospitalization, faster return to function, improved cosmesis, lower infection rates, and improved visualization and magnification. In veterinary medicine, multiple studies found that dogs that were spayed laparoscopically were less painful than those spayed in the traditional open method.


Arthroscopy is the exploration of a joint using a camera (arthroscope). Arthroscopy in small animal surgery is most commonly used to explore the shoulder, elbow, and stifle (knee). Arthroscopy can be used to diagnose and treat several disease of these joint such as osteochondritis dessicans (OCD), medial compartment disease of the elbow, and cruciate disease and meniscal tears of the knee. Arthroscopy avoids the use of a larger incision into the joint by allowing evaluation and treatment through multiple smaller port incisions. This results in less pain and faster return to function.

Culp W. The effect of laparoscopic versus open ovariectomy on post-surgical activity in small dogs. Vet Surg 2009.

Davidson E, Moll H, Payton M: Comparison of laparoscopic ovariohysterectomy and ovariohysterectomy in dogs. Vet Surg, 2004; 33:62-69.

Devitt C. Duration, complications, stress, and pain of open ovariohysterectomy versus a simple method of laparoscopic-assisted ovariohysterectomy in dogs. JAVMA 2005.

Hancock R, Lanz O, Waldron D et al: Comparison of postoperative pain after ovariohysterectomy by harmonic scalpel-assisted laparoscopy compared with median celiotomy and ligation in dogs. Vet Surg, 2005; 34: 273-282.