What is Abdominal Lymph Node Removal?
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped masses found throughout the body, working as filters to foreign materials. These lymph nodes are found in clusters, grouping together in areas such as the groin (inguinal lymph nodes), pelvis (iliac lymph nodes), under arm (axillary lymph nodes) and the neck (cervical lymph nodes).
Lymph node removal is termed lymphadenectomy and is defined as the surgical removal of the lymph glands. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system responsible for defending the body against viruses and bacteria. The lymphatic system is also in charge of returning excess body fluids to the circulatory system, but is also largely responsible for the spread of cancerous cells. As the body has an average of 500 to 700 lymph nodes, cancer cells can break away from their primary site and use the fast chain of lymph system to spread to other regions of the body. It stands to reason that the primary reason for performing a lymphadenectomy is to examine the lymph for the presence of cancerous cells.
A lymphadenectomy can either be limited/modified or total/radical. A modified lymphadenectomy is the partial removal of the lymph node, whereas a radical lymphadenectomy is complete removal of said lymph node. A lymphadenectomy is performed by a licensed veterinarian or specialized veterinarian than works primarily with the lymphatic system of animals.
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Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Procedure in Dogs
Prior to the canine’s surgical date, the veterinarian will perform a fine-needle aspirate biopsy to evaluate the fluids taken from the swollen lymph. A cytology of said fluids will reveal abnormalities in the cells and further diagnostic testing will diagnose the present form of cancer.
The week prior to the surgery date, the canine will be required to halt all blood thinners and pain medications. These drugs inhibit the blood’s ability to clot and place the dog at risk for internal bleeding. If a canine has been prescribed a long-term pain medication or blood thinner, the veterinarian will perform an anticoagulation test prior to surgery to ensure the active drug components have left the body completely.
The night before surgery, your dog will not be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. As various lymph nodes can be found in the abdominal region, the following is a general step-by-step guide of abdominal lymphadenectomy surgical procedure.
- A pre-anesthetic, pain medication, and antibiotic are injection to the dog.
- The dog will be feeling drowsy from the pre-anesthetic/sedative, but mask gas anesthesia will likely follow to allow the dog to rest comfortably.
- The anesthetized patient is placed on the surgical table in dorsal recumbency (on back). The hind legs are tied cranially for stabilization purposes.
- The patient will have the hair clipped close to the skin in the affected area. The freshly clipped area will then be scrubbed for surgery.
- A drape is placed on top of the dog, creating a sterile field. The drape is clamped in place and an opening is made in the drape, just above the focus point of the surgery.
- A scalpel is used to make an incision through the subcutaneous, fat and muscle layers above the affected lymph node.
- The lymph node or group of lymph nodes are identified and isolated.
- The vet will carefully separate the lymph from surrounding nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and other surrounding tissues. Fat contains a large number of lymph nodes and may be removed along with the lymph cluster.
- Bleeding is stopped
- Sutures are placed in the muscle and skin, but a small area is left open with a drain in place. A drain will allow internal fluids to leave the body rather than accumulate in the surgical area (a common occurrence of abdominal surgical procedures).
Efficacy of Abdominal Lymph Node Removal in Dogs
A lymphadenectomy is a highly effective form of treatment for managing and treating cancerous cells inside a lymph node.
Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Recovery in Dogs
Dogs that have undergone a lymphadenectomy will be released from the hospital the day of the surgery. Some canines appear drowsy and inactive, whereas other dogs return to normal behavior. In either case, the dog must be confined and restricted from physical activity to prevent sutures from coming loose. An Elizabethan collar may be sent home with the dog to prevent manipulation of the incision site. Pain medications, paired with a broad spectrum antibiotic will be administered as directed by the veterinarian.
Cost of Abdominal Lymph Node Removal in Dogs
The cost to have your dog’s lymph node removed depends greatly on the number of lymph nodes affected, the location of the lymph node in the abdomen and the stage of cancer the canine is diagnosed with. Major surgery completed to remove deep lymph nodes are usually priced at around $1,500, but can be more depending on the veterinarian and what was required during surgery. Keep in mind that the stated price is only a general estimate for surgery and does not include additional treatment of chemotherapy and/or radiation. Ask your veterinarian about an estimated cost for your dog’s specific surgical needs.
Dog Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Considerations
As with all major abdominal surgeries, complications may occur. Although rare, a dog that has undergone a lymphadenectomy procedure may develop surgery induced bleeding, infection, and organ or tissue injury. A condition called lymphocele can also occur, a condition in which lymphatic fluids collect and need to be removed.
Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Prevention in Dogs
Abdominal lymph node removal is a procedure commonly done to prevent the spread of cancer and is a method of prevention in itself. Cancer cannot be prevented, but keeping your dog on a balanced diet, following routine veterinary check-ups, and avoiding harmful elements (air pollutants, chemicals) may aid in preventing this disease. Surgically removing the lymph nodes will permanently prevent lymphoma in that localized portion on the body. However, due to the fact that lymph nodes are found all over a dog's body, the prevention of cancer in other lymph nodes is not obtainable.
Abdominal Lymph Node Removal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I took my dog to the vet today to look at a mass on his paw and some lumps on his throat. The vet said his lymph nodes in his throat and hind legs were enlarged and hard. The vet aspirated both sites and looked at the cells under the microscope. The cells from his paw contained some bacterial cells and lipoma cells. The cells from his throat contained lymphocytes with two nuclei. The vet said this meant he had lymphoma. Is that definitely true, or could his culture mean something else, like an infection from whatever caused the mass on his paw (the vet thought it may have been a bite)? He is a 12 year old Golden Retriever who is otherwise very healthy. His last check up was in January, and his next one is in July. He received a full body senior wellness exam last check-up, and they found nothing wrong. We have noticed that he's been drinking a lot of water lately, and this was ruled out to be any kind of problem during his January vet visit but I wonder if that was a mistake. He was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism in January and was put on medicine, but he has been off of it for about a month now due to problems with the prescription.
There is more to examining the number of nuclei in a cell for diagnosing lymphoma or any other cancer, although it is one of the parameters; number of nuclei, size of nuclei to cytoplasm ratio, shape of cell, chromatin among other criteria. Conditions like lymphoma can appear rapidly between two visits to your Veterinarian so may not have been apparent in January. Infections, inflammation, allergies and cancer may all cause lymph node enlargement. It may be worth sending an image of the microscope slide to PetRays who have board certified Oncologists to examine the image and will provide a full report of their findings. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
We had to take our dog in for surgery to have two mammary masses. During surgery they said they removed a their mass that they "thought" was a mammary mass but later said was parts of her inguinial lymph node. Its been almost 3 weeks she now has another swollen breast by the incision of that 3rd mass, also in her lower abdominal area where her inguinial lymph nodes are, are swollen and she is leaking a clear but yellowish fluid that has an odor. Im very concerned as we were told this is normal and the leaking should stop but it's been 3 weeks, she's very swollen and tender in her lower area and the leaking fluid turns her entire belly red plus has a lot of leakage. Is this normal? Should I seek another vet? Im extremely worried.
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