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Minimally Invasive Surgery: The Application of the Laparoscope in Dogs and Cats

Minimally invasive surgery, or laparoscopy, is the use of small incisions (generally 5 to 10 mm) to access the abdomen (or chest) for diagnostic or surgical purposes. Ports are placed through these small incisions and a camera and specialized instruments are passed. More complicated surgeries may require multiple ports or devices (SILS port or single incision laparoscopic system). When performing laparoscopy, the abdomen is filled with carbon dioxide to create a working space and the patient is positioned so that gravity facilitates exposure of the organs of interest.

While it initially was used for diagnostic purposes in veterinary medicine (liver biopsies), laparoscopy has progressed to be utilized for many surgical procedures. It offers the patient less pain, more rapid recovery, and, with liver biopsies, better diagnostic accuracy.

Laparoscopic procedures that have been developed in dogs and cats include (but not limited to):

  • Ovariectomy (Spay)

  • Cryptorchid testicle retrieval from the abdominal cavity

  • Gastropexy

  • Liver biopsy

  • Cholecystectomy

  • Laparoscopic assisted bladder stone removal

  • Laparoscopic assisted intestinal biopsies

  • Laparoscopic assisted intestinal foreign body retrieval

  • Laparoscopic assisted splenectomy


A procedure is described as laparoscopic if the incisions are only those related to the instrumentation. A laparoscopic assisted procedure is one in which the laparoscope is used to markedly reduce the size of the incisions and amount of tissue manipulation so as to have reduced patient discomfort post operatively, increased healing, more rapid return to function,  and better outcome.