Keyhole procedures

What is it? 

Laparoscopic surgery, also called keyhole or minimally invasive surgery allows veterinary surgeons to gain access to the abdominal cavity via 2 to 3 very small incisions. Using specialised videoscope and instruments they operate on the organs while watching the procedure on the screen.

Why is it better than the conventional “big cut” surgery? 

Laparoscopic procedures have many benefits over standard ways of operating carrying less surgical risks and lesser soft tissue trauma, which results in a quicker and less painful recovery.  Here are a few reasons why you should choose keyhole surgery for your pet. 

  • Keyhole surgery wounds are much smaller they range from 0.5 to 1cm in size whereas standard open surgery can range from 6cm to 15cm in size.  
  • Patients undergoing laparoscopic procedures have markedly reduced pain post surgery. Patients undergoing open surgery may require additional pain relief post operatively and the recovery is much slower.
  • Keyhole surgery carries lower risks as handling of soft tissue is more delicate, and electrosurgery is used for cauterising blood vessels.
  • Visualisation of the soft tissues is much better as the abdomen is inflated with carbon dioxide and the camera system provides magnification of the surgical site, which reduces the operation time.

The most common laparoscopic procedures are keyhole spays in which the ovaries of female dogs are removed. Less frequent operations done laparoscopically are laparoscopic cryptorchid castrates to remove retained testicles in dogs and gastropexies in large dogs to prevent stomach volvulus.

Laparoscopic spays

Being done through small holes the surgeons only removes the ovaries. They produce the female hormones and are responsible for the dog’s seasons. During open spay both uterus and ovaries are removed through the same large cut.

It is possible to remove uterus as well during the keyhole procedure but it is not commonly done. It adds more risks to the surgery (bleeding, bowel injury) and since the hormone-producing organ are the ovaries, it is not necessary to remove the womb. The life-long risk of gynaecological cancers in dogs is related to the exposure of hormones, which means that if the spay is done early, leaving the uterus inside will not increase chances of cancer in the future, compared to open surgery where the womb is removed with the ovaries.

The surgeon sees the internal organs on the screen while operating inside the abdomen.

Surgeons operate on the internal organs using high-tech videoscope and equipment.

Gary, Rosa and Gemma starting a laparoscopic spay on a 25kilogram dog.

When is keyhole surgery NOT recommended?

In very small dogs it may be difficult to perform the surgery with standard-size instruments. Also some dogs may have umbilical hernia, which in some cases can ‘get in the way’ and sometimes it is more beneficial to choose an open approach and operate on the hernia at the same time as the spay.

Why is it more expensive? 

Keyhole surgery uses high tech specialised equipment which include a range of scopes, light source and cables, cameras, video monitors, inflation machines, electrosurgery and much more specialised equipment. This equipment is not only expensive to buy, but also to maintain and service regularly.

The surgery is usually performed by a senior vet who has to undergo specific training to enable them to carry out these procedures.

Open surgery is very dated by today’s standards, so to provide the best peri-operative and post operative care we are offering this service to all of our patients where applicable.

To talk to one of our veterinary surgeons about the benefits of laparoscopic surgery, book an appointment with our friendly reception team on 01543 373033 or text us on facebook or our WhatsApp messaging service.