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Veterinary Surgery: Tech-driven Care for Better Outcomes and Faster Recovery 

Veterinary Surgery: Tech-driven Care for Better Outcomes and Faster Recovery 
Thanks to innovations in veterinary surgery, pets that need treatment can now look forward to better surgical outcomes. (Credit: https://www.vets-now.com/)

The growing use of advanced tech like 3D printing, minimally invasive surgery, and stem cell therapy in veterinary care helps pets get better surgery results, lowers risks, and shortens recovery times more than ever before.

In many households across the world, pets are treated more like family members than companion animals. When it comes to pet health and well-being, owners typically seek out the most technologically advanced and effective veterinary care available, particularly if they are one of the increasing numbers of people with comprehensive pet insurance. Underpinned by technological development, the veterinary equipment and supplies market is expected to grow from $2.2 billion in 2023 to $3.2 billion by 2028. 

Just as in human medicine, veterinary medicine continues to make significant strides in various fields, including surgical techniques. The last decade has seen more and more veterinarians employ technologies such as ultrasound, MRI and laparoscopy, which were once restricted to human healthcare.

The use of technology in the surgical room also makes life better for those who care for animals in need, too. Veterinary practitioners can now access devices, pharmaceuticals and services that make performing their jobs easier, more efficient and accurate, and most importantly, more effective.  

3D-printed Guides for the Operating Theater

Just as in human healthcare, 3D printing has opened up new possibilities in veterinary surgery. Custom-made prosthetics and implants can now be designed and manufactured precisely to help pets with limb amputations, joint issues and various orthopedic conditions.

3D-printed products can be used for surgical training to inform owners before operations begin, surgical planning and method rehearsal, and the production of patient-specific intra-operative drilling and cutting guides, implants, prostheses and orthoses.

Dr. Bill Oxley is the founder and director of Vet3D, a UK-based company specializing in CAD-based virtual surgical planning and the creation of 3D-printed, patient-specific surgical guides. He explained:

“A classic application would be a complex bone deformity in a pet. It is extremely difficult to plan where to make cuts in the bone from X-rays and even from CT scans.

With CAD software it’s significantly easier, because you can make virtual cuts, move the bone around and put it in different places.” 

READ ALSO: From 3D Printing to Extended Reality: The Vet Tech Revolution

Once the Vet3D team have had modeled how a bone should be put together, they design guides to ensure surgeons make the cuts in the right place, or to guide them as they insert screws and implants. 

The guides are then 3D printed and put to use in the operating theater. Vet3D has now manufactured over 2500 patient-specific guide systems for veterinary surgeons in over 20 countries and continues to innovate new techniques. Bill Oxley added:

“Key future directions for 3D printing in veterinary surgery include much greater use of patient-specific implants and the application of artificial intelligence in deformity assessment and correction, as well as guide and implant design.”

Minimally Invasive Techniques: Smaller Incisions and Vessel Sealing Devices 

Also known as keyhole surgery, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) refers to a modern technique in which surgery is performed through multiple small incisions in the body. Today, MIS is becoming increasingly popular in veterinary as well as human healthcare. 

Les Meadowcroft is the founder and CEO of US-based company VetOvation, which provides minimally invasive laparoscopy and endoscopy equipment to veterinarians, along with training. He said:

“MIS is a safer procedure for pets than conventional surgery. By using smaller incisions and vessel sealing devices, veterinarians can ensure faster recovery times.”

With a traditional ovariohysterectomy (spaying), for example, owners are instructed to keep female dogs crated for a week to 10 days following the procedure. With MIS, female dogs can return to normal activity much faster, generally within a few days of surgery.

The sealing of vessels can completely replace internal stitching, which can cause reactions in pets, including itchiness, swelling, and in extreme cases, the need for additional surgery.

Stem Cell Therapy 

Stem cell therapy is another groundbreaking technique that is gaining traction in veterinary medicine. It can be used in combination with surgery, or as an interventional treatment in its own right.  

Stem cell therapy involves the gathering of specific, highly versatile “mesenchymal stromal” cells from a pet and injecting those cells into damaged or diseased limbs, joints and other parts of the musculoskeletal structure. By leveraging the regenerative properties of these cells, veterinarians can promote tissue repair and regeneration, offering relief to pets with chronic joint conditions or certain degenerative diseases.

Almost any pet, from horses and dogs to cats and even small animals, can benefit from stem cell therapy if they are suffering from damaged tissue or arthritic joints. The stem cells not only accelerate the healing process but can also help to reduce inflammation.

Clinical trials have shown that the approach may even be used on spinal cord injuries in animals.

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