What is Pancreatic Biopsy?

Your dog's pancreas produces enzymes that digest food and insulin, which regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates. When disorder of the pancreas occurs, inflammation of the organ also occurs. Enzymes are released into the abdominal cavity where they react with your dog’s other organs and tissues, causing damage to these structures, and metabolism of carbohydrates is impaired. These conditions result in illness in your dog and the cause of pancreatic malfunction needs to be determined. 

Taking a sample of pancreatic tissue, a pancreatic biopsy, and sending this tissue for examination to locate disease (pathology) is the best way to isolate the cause of pancreatic disease or dysfunction. Biopsy of the pancreas can be performed by your veterinarian by open surgery (celiotomy), where an incision is made into the abdominal cavity to access the pancreas, or laparoscopically, by accessing the abdominal organ through a small incision with the aide of a camera to guide the procedure. Both procedures require anesthesia. Additionally, biopsy may be taken by fine needle aspiration through the abdominal wall. This may be done with sedation and local anesthetic if your dog is cooperative and, again, requires your veterinary practitioner to be equipped and skilled to perform this procedure.

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Pancreatic Biopsy Procedure in Dogs

If biopsy by fine needle aspiration is being performed, sedation and local anesthetic may be adequate and a long needle will be inserted through your dog's abdominal wall into the pancreas and fluid collected for assessment. This procedure will be guided by ultrasound.

If surgical biopsy is being performed, your dog will require fasting, followed by general anesthesia. 

Pancreatic biopsy can be performed laparoscopically using a tube inserted through a small incision in your dog's abdominal wall and into the abdominal cavity with a camera on the end to guide the procedure. Specialized surgical instruments will then be used to access the pancreas and guided by the information provided to your surgeon by the camera.

Open surgery of your dog's abdominal wall to access the pancreas and take a biopsy of the pancreas is more common in veterinary surgery. After your dog is under general anaesthetic the dog's abdomen will be shaved and cleaned prior to making an incision in the abdominal wall. Tissues and organs will be moved aside carefully to access the pancreas. Care must be taken when locating a biopsy site to avoid blood supply and pancreatic ducts. Biopsies are often performed at the distal portion of the right limb of the pancreas, away from the center, to avoid these complications. Once isolated, a biopsy or tissue sample of the pancreas can be taken by several techniques including:

  • Suture Fracture - non absorbing suture material is passed around an area of the pancreas and tightened to close off vascularization and ducts. The tissue on the outside is then removed and the incision closed.
  • Tru Cut Biopsy - executed using a special needle shaped surgical tool designed for taking biopsies of organs.
  • Blunt dissection and ligation - removes a wedge shaped tissue sample using a scalpel and the tying off blood vessels using traditional surgical methods.

Once the biopsy is completed, incisions will be closed and observed for any signs of leakage prior to final closure of the abdominal cavity. The biopsy sample will be sent for analysis at a laboratory equipped to analyze pancreatic tissues and determine pathology present.

Postoperatively, your dog may be observed for 24-48 hours and provided with intravenous fluids. Postoperative treatment will vary depending on the degree of illness and requirement for supportive care your dog requires. 

Efficacy of Pancreatic Biopsy in Dogs

Pancreatic biopsy is recognized as the most effective way to determine the cause of pancreatitis and pancreas disorder. Because pancreatic disease can be located diffusely, multiple biopsies may be required to get an accurate diagnosis.

Pancreatic Biopsy Recovery in Dogs

Recovery from pancreatic biopsy, especially if performed by needle aspiration or laparoscopically is relatively straight forward, however, because your dog's illness necessitating this procedure is usually severe, recovery may be complicated by your dog's condition. Medication will be provided by your veterinarian as appropriate. You will need to prevent your dog from interfering with any abdominal wounds, the use of an Elizabethan collar will assist with this. Monitor your dog for signs of bleeding or infection and address with your veterinarian immediately.

Cost of Pancreatic Biopsy in Dogs

The cost of a pancreatic biopsy will vary widely depending on the medical condition of your dog, the cost of living in your area and the method of biopsy required. A needle biopsy is less invasive but requires specialized equipment and training, while open abdominal surgery to affect a biopsy requires general anesthesia and postoperative care. Pancreatic biopsy can range in price from $500 to $2,000 depending on the degree of intervention and expertise required.

Dog Pancreatic Biopsy Considerations

Because dogs requiring pancreatic biopsy are usually extremely ill prior to the procedure, anesthesia and surgery can be extremely risk and prognosis is guarded. Pancreatic biopsy involves the risk of anesthesia use if required, hemorrhaging, infection, and adhesions (scarring). Pancreatitis may be aggravated by this procedure. Discuss your dog's condition and prognosis prior to this procedure and investigate surgical options for acquiring pancreatic biopsy.

Pancreatic Biopsy Prevention in Dogs

Exposure to poor diet, medications, and toxins can cause pancreatitis in your dog. Ensuring that your dog does not accidentally ingest inappropriate substances or foods will reduce the incidence of pancreatitis. When symptoms of illness occur in your dog prompt medical attention from a veterinarian to address symptoms and illness at an early stage will reduce the need for invasive procedures later on as disease progresses.