Minimally Invasive Surgery—A Better Option for Your Pet

January 29, 2020

Minimally Invasive Surgery—A Better Option for Your Pet

At Virginia Veterinary Centers, our board-certified veterinary surgeons successfully perform numerous surgical procedures daily. A top priority is causing your pet minimal trauma while achieving the procedure goals, which may include removing a diseased organ, repairing a damaged structure, or collecting diagnostic tissue samples. Whenever possible, we perform minimally invasive surgery to reduce surgical trauma and reduce healing time, so your pet is back on her feet again as soon as possible.

What is minimally invasive surgery?

VVC Surgery

Minimally invasive surgery is performed through several small incisions instead of one large incision. When the surgery involves a join, abdomen, or chest, a small fiberoptic scope attached to a high-definition camera is inserted through one of the incisions to provide visualization of the surgical site, while instruments are passed through other incisions to perform the procedure. Since the incisions are considerably smaller, your pet’s discomfort and healing time are reduced, and her normal routine is minimally interrupted. When minimally invasive surgery is used to repair fractures, called minimally invasive percutaneous osteosynthesis (MIPO), fluoroscopy may be used to visualize placement of implants through small incisions without visualization of the actual fracture. This approach reduces patient discomfort and improves healing times.   


Which minimally invasive surgeries are performed at VVC?

We can access many areas within the body using minimally invasive surgery, including your pet’s joints, bones,  abdomen, and thorax, and can perform these minimally invasive procedures:

  • Arthroscopy — Arthroscopy is minimally invasive joint surgery that has long been the standard of care for human joint surgery. Arthroscopy is a better option than traditional surgery, which often involves traumatically cutting through muscle, tendons, and bone to access joints, and requires a longer healing process. The procedure can function as diagnostic and therapeutic, since it can be used to visualize damaged joint surfaces, collect samples, and surgically treat certain conditions within joints. Although almost any joint can be accessed using arthroscopy, it is particularly useful for evaluating and treating knee, shoulder, and elbow conditions. 
  • Laparoscopy — Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery of the abdominal cavity, which uses a rigid fiberoptic scope with a high-definition camera on the end that is inserted through a small abdominal incision to provide visualization of the surgical site. Similar to laparoscopy in humans, carbon dioxide (CO2) is infused to distend the abdominal cavity for better visualization. Additional small incisions are used to place portals through which various tools can be passed to cut or ligate (tie/close off) tissue, and collect diagnostic samples. Laparoscopy can be used for a variety of abdominal surgeries, but is becoming an increasingly popular method to perform ovariectomy, a minimally invasive alternative to traditional ovariohysterectomy (OHE or spay) to prevent reproduction in female pets. Laparoscopy is also commonly used to perform prophylactic gastropexy surgery in dog breeds predisposed to developing gastric dilation volvulus (GDV or bloat), which causes life-threatening stomach dilation and rotation. Minimally invasive surgery can also be used to collect biopsy samples from various abdominal organs, such as the liver and spleen.
  • VVC Minimally Invasive SurgeryThoracoscopy — Opening a pet’s thoracic (i.e., chest) cavity has typically involved cutting through the muscle between ribs or cutting through the sternum, which causes significant pain and a lengthy healing process. Thoracoscopy is a minimally invasive alternative that eliminates the need to open your pet’s thorax and dramatically reduces her pain and recovery time. Thoracoscopy is most commonly used to treat diseases involving the pericardium, which is the membrane surrounding the heart. Fluid can accumulate in the pericardium and compress the heart, causing heart failure. With thoracoscopy, instead of opening the thoracic cavity and completely removing the pericardium, a small window is made in the membrane to drain the fluid and return normal heart function.
  • Minimally invasive percutaneous osteosynthesis (MIPO) — Fluoroscopy, a form of radiograph (X-ray), may be used to visualize the fracture and placement of implants through small incisions without the need for a large incision and dissection through muscle to visualize the actual fracture. This approach reduces patient discomfort and improves healing times. Fractures that may be amenable to MIPO include fractures of the long bones (radius, humerus, tibia, femur) of adult and juvenile pets as well as certain growth plate fractures of juveniles.

Is my pet a candidate for minimally invasive surgery?

Although we can perform many minimally invasive surgical procedures, some procedures still require us to access your pet’s body cavity through a larger incision. If your family veterinarian refers your pet to us, our surgeons will evaluate her case and determine whether a minimally invasive procedure will provide the best results. 


If your pet requires surgery, contact us to determine whether a minimally invasive procedure is best for your pet’s needs.