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What is Exploratory Laparoscopy?

Exploratory laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to identify and diagnose gastrointestinal conditions in cats. This procedure involves using carbon dioxide gas to inflate the abdominal cavity. This allows for visualization of most parts of the abdominal cavity without causing any damage to the abdominal wall. With exploratory laparoscopy, the surgeon can visualize the small and large intestines, bladder, gallbladder, diaphragm, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, colon, uterus and ovaries in females, and the vas deferens in males. 

This is achieved using a laparoscope – a specialized tube with a light affixed to the end – which is inserted through a small abdominal incision. The surgeon will then be able to see deformities or signs of disease. The surgeon can also use tools to collect tissue samples, or perform diagnostic techniques and/or minor surgical repairs.

Exploratory Laparoscopy Procedure in Cats

  1. Prior to surgery, the cat will undergo preoperative testing to ensure anesthetization is safe.
  2. The cat is then anesthetized.
  3. The surgical site is clipped, cleaned, and draped.
  4. A specialized needle called a Veress needle is inserted into the abdominal wall. This is connected to insufflation tubing, through which the carbon dioxide is administered.
  5. The surgeon will ensure the level of inflation is under the recommended pressure levels to prevent overdistention.
  6. The surgeon will make another incision, through which a cannula, or special tube, is inserted. This tube keeps the surgical site open and facilitates the use of tools for diagnostic and treatment purposes.
  7. The laparoscope is inserted to maximize visualization of the abdominal cavity.
  8. The surgeon will use whatever tools are necessary to diagnose or partially treat the underlying condition. These may include biopsy forceps, a small camera, and other diagnostic instruments.
  9. Once the surgeon has collected sufficient images, video, and tissue samples, all instruments are removed.
  10. The insufflation and cannula tubes will then be removed, allowing the abdomen to deflate prior to closure of the surgical sites.
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Efficacy of Exploratory Laparoscopy in Cats

Exploratory laparoscopy is considered extremely effective and safe, especially since it is much less invasive than open laparotomy. Cats that undergo exploratory laparoscopy recover quickly, and with less pain than cats that undergo exploratory laparotomy. It is also a cheaper and safer way of collecting tissue samples from the abdomen.

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Exploratory Laparoscopy Recovery in Cats

Since this is a minimally invasive surgery, recovery is short and straightforward. Cats may need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from irritating the surgery sites until the sutures are removed ten to fourteen days after the procedure. Owners should monitor the surgery sites to ensure no bleeding, swelling, or drainage occurs. The vet may or may not place restrictions on the cat’s activity following surgery. Additional follow-up appointments may be scheduled as needed to administer treatment for the underlying condition.

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Cost of Exploratory Laparoscopy in Cats

The cost of exploratory laparoscopy will vary based on standards of living and additional costs incurred. The national average cost of exploratory laparoscopy is $900 to $2,000.

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Cat Exploratory Laparoscopy Considerations

The risk of complications associated with exploratory laparoscopy is extremely low. In fact, less than 2% of cats experience postoperative complications. It should be noted that complications are typically attributed to cardiovascular health and allergic reaction to anesthesia rather than complications from the procedure itself. However, complications are possible with any surgical procedure. The most serious complications of exploratory laparoscopy, apart from those already listed, may include hemorrhage and air embolism.

This procedure should not be performed on cats that have a history of abnormal blood clotting or obesity. Cats in considerably poor health are not optimal candidates for this procedure.

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Exploratory Laparoscopy Prevention in Cats

It is difficult to prevent many diseases which may warrant exploratory laparoscopy, including congenital abdominal defects and cancer. Owners should ensure their cats are fed a regulated and complete commercial diet to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal disease.

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Exploratory Laparoscopy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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