Laparoscopy is the formal medical name for “key-hole-surgery” within the abdomen.

Key-hole (or ‘minimally invasive’) surgery has become commonplace in human surgery with more and more procedures being performed in this manner and, over the last 18 months, we have been able to perform these procedures on cats and dogs at the Donaldson’s Hospital practice at Maple Street.

The principle behind laparoscopy is that a sterile video camera is placed through a small incision inside the abdomen. An inert gas, carbon-dioxide, inflates the abdominal cavity and the resulting video image is played onto a monitor screen in the theatre.

Sterile surgical instruments can also be introduced via similar small incisions (known as ports) into the abdomen and so a wide variety of surgical procedures can be performed.

While there are still surgical incisions associated with a Laparoscopic operation, these are often only a few millimetres long and so they are associated with a faster, less painful, and smoother recovery after the procedure and less risk of complications than would be the case with conventional surgery.

Laparoscopy is suitable for a wide variety of procedures from routine elective surgery such as spey operations to more complex procedures.

We have recently used Laparoscopic surgery to help diagnose and treat a number of animals with liver disease. Through the laparoscope, we can view a magnified view of the liver and often get a clearer view of the liver than we could with a conventional procedure. We can also examine the adjacent organs such as gall bladder, stomach, pancreas and spleen. If required, we can take biopsy samples from affected organs to send for laboratory confirmation, often being able to confirm a diagnosis within 24 hours. Depending on the diagnosis, these patients may be treatable either surgically or by using medical management.

Because of the less invasive nature of the surgery and smoother recovery, Laparoscopy can be considered in patients that were too sick or elderly to consider a conventional surgical procedure.