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Surgical Equipment Options in Veterinary Medicine

Surgical Equipment Options in Veterinary Medicine

By Mark Hale DVM

Bolivar, MO


            Technological advancements in the human medical field are occurring at an amazing pace. New diagnostic and treatment options are continuing to become available. Some of these are capable of truly amazing things. In veterinary medicine, while most of these advancements can be performed, oftentimes due to cost or availability they are not an option for most pet owners.

            One area that has become more widely used by veterinarians for is electrical surgical machines for soft tissue surgery. Initial cost of the instruments has lowered over the last few years, and pet owners are requesting more advanced and better techniques for their furry friends. This group is made up of three main categories: electrosurgical, laser, and radiosurgical. Each has its own pluses and minuses, yet all three are capable of performing soft tissue surgery well. All three types use energy (light) waves to dessicate (dry) tissues to cut, but they use different wavelengths of energy. The physics are obviously more involved, but my college physics was a long time ago. The main benefits of these techniques versus traditional surgical methods are: decreased bleeding and swelling, sealing of nerve endings, and better control of incisions. In my own experience, a noticeable decrease in pain is evident following routine surgeries with radiosurgical use. This is probably most noticeable with feline declaw procedures. Now most kittens after declawing are not even limping within 36-48 hours after surgery. I can also see details better since there is less blood in the surgical area. The decrease in pain can be attributed to the sealed nerve endings, versus conventional methods in which the nerve endings are open and must seal over with time during the healing process. The decreased swelling also helps avoid pain.

            I personally decided on radiosurgery versus the other two types for three main reasons. Less collateral tissue damage, shorter learning curve, and less cost per procedure. (These points would all be arguable if you talked to a salesman for the competition, I am sure.) One point that needs to be made is that merely possessing this equipment does not make someone a good surgeon. Knowledge of anatomy, common sense, attention to detail, and experience are much more important.    

            Discussing these new advancements, or any other questions you may have, with your veterinarian will help you make the right decisions for your animal companion.