Historically, the best way to investigate a problem in the body was often to perform an exploratory surgical procedure and examine the affected organ.
This often meant taking a seriously ill animal and subjecting them to an invasive surgical procedure. While the benefits of gaining a firm diagnosis sometimes justified these measures, I have had many discussions with owners where we have concluded that their pet is just not robust enough to cope with that sort of invasive procedure.
Fortunately, in modern Veterinary practice, we have a range of non-invasive diagnostic tools at our disposal which often allows accurate diagnosis without being so invasive.
X-ray, Ultrasound, blood testing analysers and urine analysis can all be performed. All of the Donaldson’s clinics have facilities on-site to allow rapid progress towards a diagnosis.
While, for many conditions, confirmation can be achieved by a blood test or scan, there are also occasions when there is no substitute for examining inside the abdomen or taking a biopsy of an organ such as the kidney, liver or spleen. Now, even in these cases, there is a minimally invasive option by using a technique called Laparoscopy (also known as keyhole surgery).
With Laparoscopy, we make a very small incision into the abdomen and insert a camera. The image is relayed to monitor screens in the theatre where we can view a clear and magnified view of the abdomen. Instruments can be inserted through other ports which allow us to perform surgical procedures, take biopsy samples etc.
The minimally invasive nature of the surgery means that it can be justified in patients where conventional surgery could not be considered. The post-op recovery tends to be faster, the discomfort is reduced, the risks of infection and wound breakdown are reduced and very importantly, the view the surgeon gets inside the abdomen is much better with the Laparoscope than a conventional surgical approach.
Laparoscopy facilities are still not available in all Veterinary Practices but since having the facilities for Laparoscopy available at the Maple Street Veterinary Hospital, we have seen a rapid transition towards its use as a diagnostic tool as well as being used for routine neutering surgery.