Are Laparoscopic Spays Preferable to Traditional Ones?
Here's a question that fits in the Vet Blog's July theme of spays.
Is a laproscoptic ovio-hysterectomy (spay) in a large breed dog (German Shepherd Dog) at one-year of age preferable over a traditional surgery; and, what are the pros and cons of each procedure?
That's an excellent question. Thanks for bringing up the subject.
In standard spay procedures an incision is made in the abdomen. The uterus and ovaries are withdrawn through the incision. Blood vessels running to the uterus and the ovaries are tied off to prevent hemorrhage. The uterus and ovaries are then excised.
Laparoscopy involves the use of special surgical instruments containing high-tech cameras. In laparoscopic procedures small incisions are made in the abdomen. Special surgical instruments are used to tie off blood vessels inside of the abdomen. The uterus and ovaries are then withdrawn.
Laparoscopic spays offer several advantages over traditional spays. The greatest advantage is reduced surgical pain. Laparoscopic incisions generally are much smaller than traditional incisions, and smaller incisions generally lead to less pain. Also, routine spays require that a ligament (the ovarian ligament) be stretched or torn in order to exteriorize each ovary and tie off the blood vessels running to it. Tension on this ligament is extremely painful. Surgical complications such as hemorrhage sometimes occur as surgeons work to tear or stretch ovarian ligaments. It is not necessary to stretch or tear the ovarian ligaments in laparoscopic procedures.
The biggest disadvantages of laparoscopic spays are expense and availability. Every vet knows how to perform a traditional spay. Only a tiny fraction of vets have the training and equipment necessary to perform a laparoscopic spay. The specialized equipment and training are expensive, so laparoscopic spays tend to be much more expensive than traditional ones.
If you want to know which way the wind is blowing, look to human surgery (whether anyone likes it or not, veterinary medicine often follows trends in human medicine). Human surgeons have been moving steadily towards laparoscopy for most procedures for the last few decades. As the equipment becomes cheaper and as more vets are trained in laparoscopy I expect the same thing to happen in veterinary medicine.