Introduction to Abdominal Surgery:
Abdominal surgery constitutes a number of possibilities; any surgical procedure involving the stomach or intestines, the liver or spleen, the pancreas, the kidney, bladder or other parts of the urinary tract, the reproductive tract, the gall bladder, and of course, the removal or repair of tumors, foreign objects, and injuries.
The average veterinary practitioner has a great deal of experience with opening up the abdominal cavity because of all the spays we do and because of the fairly high number of dogs who eat inappropriate things that get stuck in the intestines.
Most of us are also fairly used to removing bladder stones, doing C-Sections, repairing hernias, and doing "exploratories" as well.
But despite our familiarity with the abdominal cavity, anytime we open up the abdomen, especially to remove or repair organs, it's a major surgery with many types of potential dangers involved.
Anytime a fluid containing organ is opened up (stomach, intestines, uterus, bladder, gall bladder) great care has to be taken to make sure there are no leaks on the one hand, and minimal scar tissue, constriction, and adhesions on the other hand.
The removal of major organs such as the kidney, spleen, or parts of the liver or pancreas require a lot of experience, speed, and precision. These are also highly vascular organs needing lots of ligatures to control bleeding and are often difficult to get to without retraction, so for some of these surgeries, surgical nurses or assistants are needed.
For these reasons, many abdominal surgeries are referred to specialists. Another reason for referral is that many of these patients will need 24 hour post op fluids and other recovery care for several days.
Once again, I've chosen too broad a topic. Abdominal surgery can be anything from the uncomplicated spay of a young cat that goes home the same day as if nothing much happened to the removal of a cancerous kidney or a gut-shot hound dog with multiple holes in the intestinal system and a hemorrhaging spleen...both cases needing aggressive fluids, transfusions, abdominal suction, hours of surgery, and extensive post op care. A little prayer helps in these cases too.
In most all cases, though, whether expected to be routine or high-risk, your surgeon will take care to pre-examine the patient, recommend pre-anesthetic testing, pre-medicate with medications to minimize pain and reduce the amount of anesthesia needed, and have everything ready in case there are problems.
What problems? Well, lots of things can go wrong.
Vomiting and aspiration.
Cardiac and respiratory arrest.
Trouble with clotting.
Necrotic, septic, or abnormal tissue that tears in your hand.
Equipment that fails to work.
Electricity that goes out in the middle of a procedure. Heart attack of the surgeon. Armed robbery of the clinic during the surgery. I'm getting a little carried away here. Sorry. But it's true that every once in a while things get a little hairy during surgery and we have to be ready for trouble. And you should understand that the costs and outcomes can be quite variable...it all depends on the extent of the problem, the number of problems incurred, and any number of other factors. Be prepared for the possibility of bad result and be understanding. If your general practitioner recommends referral to a specialist; take the advice. Some of these cases are a big deal!
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