Development of minimally-invasive procedures has grown out of veterinary and human medical doctors’ desire to enhance patient care and quality of life, diagnose disease before it significantly compromises patient well-being, decrease procedure-associated recovery times and expand treatment options. A variety of minimally-invasive procedures are now offered at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, utilizing state of the art equipment including high-definition cameras and processors, digital image capture technology, cutting edge videoscopes and fiber-optic scopes, and a holmium YAG laser. (More information on the uses of our equipment can be found in descriptions of commonly performed procedures.)
Endoscopy is a procedure where a tiny camera is introduced through a natural orifice (opening), such as the mouth, to directly examine the visual appearance of connecting structures and obtain specimens for diagnostic testing or perform therapeutic interventions. Because endoscopic procedures are not as invasive as exploratory surgery, animals generally have little to no post-procedure pain and faster recoveries. Additional benefits of endoscopy include direct visualization of the luminal (inside) aspect of the gastrointestinal tract and magnification of tissues. This allows for identification of subtle or focal defects or lesions and more targeted sampling of tissues for biopsy and culture to obtain accurate diagnoses.
There are many different types of endoscopy for evaluation of a variety of organ systems and treatment of a variety of disorders. Procedures offered at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine include, but are not limited to:
- Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy
- Esophageal stricture dilation
- Gastric or intestinal feeding tube placement
- Lower gastrointestinal endoscopy, including ileoscopy and colonoscopy
- Nasal aspergillosis topical treatments
- Cystoscopy and vaginoscopy
- Laser lithotripsy
- Ectopic ureter laser correction
- Urethral collagen injection
Additional diagnostic and therapeutic procedures may be performed using scope technology where equipment is introduced through an artificial orifice or port. These procedures include:
- Thoracic cavity
- Abdominal cavity (liver, pancreas, etc.)
Risks and Limitations
Endoscopy is generally considered a safe procedure. The most common risks are those associated with any type of general anesthesia and transient worsening of clinical signs secondary to organ manipulation.
Like any procedure, endoscopy does have some limitations. Because full thickness biopsies cannot be taken using endoscopy, lesions in the deeper layers of tissue may not be identified without surgery. One additional disadvantage of endoscopy compared to exploratory surgery is the inability to correct or excise diseased tissues. Therefore, in cases where the disease appears to be localized the deeper layers of the affected tissue or where surgery may be curative, exploratory surgery is still the preferred technique.