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What is Abdominal Lymph Node Removal?

The lymphatic system is made up of vessels and lymph nodes. Its function is to transport the white cells  to where they are needed to protect the body from infection. Each lymph node drains particular parts of the body, and when that area is infected, inflamed, or cancerous, the draining lymph is often also enlarged. 

Some of the lymph nodes in a cat's belly can often felt through the body wall, whilst others need a scan to reveal their size and shape. When a cat is sick and an abdominal lymph node is enlarged, the clinician may either biopsy or remove it. The sample is sent for histology to find out precisely what disease process (infection, inflammation, or cancer) is occurring. 

Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Procedure in Cats

Lymph node removal or biopsy is the last of several diagnostic steps. First the clinician will build up a picture of the patient's symptoms by taking a history. Then they run screening blood tests to rule out common problems such as liver or kidney disease. If the signs involve the gut, such as vomiting or diarrhea, then specific bowel function blood tests and fecal analysis may be necessary. 

If the clues point towards an abdominal problem, then imaging such as an ultrasound exam will be conducted. This helps to visualise any enlargement of organs or lymph nodes. When possible, the vet tries to avoid laparotomy (surgically exploring the abdomen) and attempt to get a sample using a fine needle guided by the ultrasound. However, if there is a reason to enter the abdomen, such as to remove a lump from the gut, then the lymph node will be removed at the same time. 

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Efficacy of Abdominal Lymph Node Removal in Cats

It should be understood that removing a lymph node is rarely curative in its own right, and mostly done for diagnostic purposes in order to guide the choice of treatment.

The rare occasions where it may be done to extend life include when a cat has been treated for a cancer affecting the animal's rear end which drains to the regional lymph node in the abdomen. If there is a high risk of the cancer spreading, then the regional lymph node will be the first place it travels, so removing it could prevent further spread. 

More typically, removal facilitates a diagnosis, which then allows targeted treatment to be given in order to improve the cat's chances of recovery. Typically this might mean administering chemotherapy drugs if a diagnosis of lymphoma is made, or diet change and steroid medication if the cat has inflammatory bowel disease. 

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Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Recovery in Cats

Removal of an abdominal lymph node is an invasive procedure in which the surgeon has to make an incision and enter into the abdomen. Actually removing the lymph node itself is not particularly irksome or dangerous, but healing from the actual laparotomy taking up to two weeks. 

The body needs to heal fully before any drugs that suppress the immune system are given. This means that typically the cat recuperates for 10 to 14 days before any steroids or chemotherapy drugs are given. 

During that recovery time the cat must be encouraged to rest, which means keeping outdoor cats inside, and restricting them to one small room so they don't jump on high furniture or ledges. Some cats will need to wear a cone to prevent them licking the incision in the belly or chewing out their sutures. 

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Cost of Abdominal Lymph Node Removal in Cats

Lymph node removal needs to be seen as part of the bigger picture. The lone act of removing the lymph node may cost $100 to $200 with around $100 for a histology report, but added on top of this is the cost of diagnostics, pain relieving drugs, and the general anesthetic. A basic anesthetic cost is around $99 with similar additional amounts for every half hour under anesthesia. Screening blood tests may cost $60 to $300 depending on the profile performed. Fecal tests can range from $40 to $220 depending on the breadth of the screening. Thus, it can easily be that an exploratory surgery with a lymph node removed for histology will cost in total $1,000 or more. 

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Cat Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Considerations

Removing an abdominal lymph node is not inherently dangerous, but is an invasive procedure. Most clinicians will attempt to get a smaller sample through a less invasive technique such as ultrasound guided biopsy. However, if the clinician needs to be inside the abdomen for another reason, then surgical removal does not greatly add to the background level of risk. 

As part of the immune system, lymph nodes police the abdomen to manage infection. Once removed they do not grow back, but usually the lymph circulation will find an alternative route to permeate the structures of the abdomen. 

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Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Prevention in Cats

Prevention of abdominal lymph node removal is principally about keeping your cat fit and healthy. This means feeding a good quality diet, applying appropriate parasite treatments, and getting regular vet checkups. 

In addition, since dry FIP is one of the conditions which can cause lymph node enlargement, it is important to source a kitten from a reputable breeder or a respected rescue. Unfortunately, kittens kept in close confines with lots of other cats that are sharing litter trays carry a raised risk of acquiring FIP and so should be avoided. 

Likewise, if your cat has symptoms such as sickness or diarrhea, then get them checked out by a vet. Early treatment of health problems can often resolve the matter ahead of a stage where the lymph node becomes enlarged. 

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Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Picasso

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Russian Blue

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Four Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cancer Lymph Node

My cat had a feline injection sarcoma on his left rear hip. The vet amputated and the initial pathology shows that the margins are clean, with no cancer cells, but that the lymph node that was enlarged and removed with the limb, was fully efaced with the cancer. My concern of course is spread to other lymph nodes or organs. Do you think they should removed the lymph node in the abdomen, since it is the next regional node from his groin node? His surgery was June 12th. He is recovering well, and an otherwise wonderful, healthy 4 year old cat.

June 24, 2018

Picasso's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Removal of an abdominal lymph node is a much more invasive procedure, as it required opening the abdomen to get to the node. Picasso may benefit from chemotherapy or radiation therapy if the lymph node was affected. It would probably be best to have a referral to an oncologist to have them advise you on the best follow up for him after his surgery.

June 24, 2018

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K

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Sphynx

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My cat has cancer and so her lymph node going down her arm was removed. The leg and foot are now swollen since there is no lynmph node there. What can I do to help her recover and not lose the leg or have it cause pain? Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/treatment/abdominal-lymph-node-removal-1

April 7, 2018

K's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Speak with your Veterinarian about the pooling of fluid in the limb; physical therapy may help as may bandaging but each case is different and I wouldn’t recommend bandaging yourself without speaking to your Veterinarian first as it is easy to cut off blood flow to the paw if done incorrectly. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 7, 2018

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katrina

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mixed long hair

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12 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Energy , Sleeps More

when we took our cat to the vet,she did an exploratory she said that our cat had lymphoma but said that she could not remove the swollen lymph node which was by the stomach.why would she not remove it if would help our cat ?

Nov. 16, 2017

katrina's Owner

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0 Recommendations

This would be a question for your Veterinarian, sometimes something as simple as removing a lymph node may not be possible due to various reasons or complications during a routine surgery; if the lymph node was unable to be removed, a biopsy or fine needle aspirate should have been taken and sent for histopathology to confirm the lymphoma. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 16, 2017

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Kitty

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Tiger

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Abnormal Enlargement

Please, how difficult is it (in general) to excise a “random” abdominal node during feline laparotomy? How much time does it typically take (the excision & typical associated hemostasis, etc. only- NOT the entire lap)? The purpose would be to potentially help diagnose SI lymphoma. I understand that this is not the ideal method of attempting to diagnose SI lymphoma in felines. I’m well aware of other likely far superior methods. There are no known enlarged nodes on imaging, etc. but I’ve read that a random bx of an abdominal (?mesenteric) node MIGHT be somewhat helpful if none of the standard methods are available to me. So this is the information I need, whether it’s ideal or not. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find such information on my own thus far. Please don’t advise me to query my vet. The reason I’m asking here is because I need some general info on this procedure that is independent of any vets that would potentially be involved in the procedure. Just like many human doctors, vets don’t/won’t always answer questions fully and/or honestly when they don’t feel comfortable doing something for whatever reason. I’ve had many cats (& just like human doctors), my cats have had grossly abnormal findings on labs/exams, etc. that were dismissed and/or ignored. That’s why people turn to independent sources of information, especially for very general questions like this one. I understand the fact that this procedure may not provide any meaningful data & is not likely an advisable means of trying to establish the diagnosis & is likely a waste of time. I just want some general facts about the procedure without the editorializing. How difficult and time consuming is it to excise a “random” abdominal/mesenteric node? If you don’t know about this procedure as you aren’t a small animal surgeon (and/or don’t care to reply), please skip it entirely. Thanks

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