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The myths of veterinary laser surgery… debunked by a veterinarian in Markham (part 2)

By August 10, 2013 May 15th, 2019 Uncategorized

In the previous blog we discussed the claims that are being made by companies selling surgical lasers to veterinarians. We are fully aware that we are presenting our opinion, based on careful due diligence, and that there will be very strong opinions disagreeing with us.

However, someone has to tell what’s real and what’s not.

1. Laser does not make it easier to do surgeries.

It requires a  learning curve for the surgeon to become familiar with this equipment and setting up the laser takes more time and effort than unpacking a sterile scalpel. Surgical time is expensive and keeps the patient under anesthetic longer… which is not an advantage.

2. It is true, there is almost no bleeding with lasers

because the laser beam instantly cauterizes and burns the tissue. However for a 2 cm skin incision at the correct location there is almost no bleeding with a scalpel. A surgical laser is definitely a great advantage in tissues that bleed naturally a lot, like in oral surgery and certain tumor resections, but for the routine abdominal incision for spays or neuters, the benefit (if any) is negligible.

3. A cut with a laser beam is painful.

Any surgeon who has accidentally lasered his/her own finger will attest to that. How could someone argue that burning through tissue is less painful than cutting?

4. Wounds after laser surgery do not heal faster?

A normal spay incision heals within 10 days. A laser can’t speed this up. Some veterinary specialists even theorize that the healing is slower due to the small area of tissue burn (coagulation) caused by the laser. So, if it heals faster or slower, it is a matter of hours not days.

5. You need sutures.

Some veterinary surgeons in Markham prefer to hide the sutures under the skin, using absorbable suture material, others prefer non-absorbable skin sutures that need to be removed 10 days later, some prefer both. Whatever kind of suture is being used is a point of professional preference, regardless what tool you used to make the incision.

6. A veterinary laser is only a cutting tool

– no matter how long or short your incision is. An experienced surgeon is usually able to perform a minimally invasive spay using a smaller incision, but the use of the laser does not change how invasive the surgery is. You can make a cut with a $60,000 laser or a $2 scalpel blade.

7. Cats do not recover faster from declaw surgeries.

There is no scientific proof for this claim, however there is evidence to the contrary since the laser cauterizes the tissue. (see point 4). EDIT: This point is fortunately irrelevant, since there is a strong move to ban declaw surgeries in Ontario. We do not declaw cats in our hospital as it is an unnecessary cosmetic surgery.

8. Clients are probably impressed with the use of high-end technology.

This is true. High-Tech sells to the uninformed. But technology is a tool that is expected, while care and compassion are what really builds the foundation of good medicine and relationships.

9. A veterinary laser is a big investment at upwards of $35,000.

This adds to the cost of operating a veterinary hospital and it is reasonable to demand a surcharge for the use of this type of equipment. The surcharge is to help paying off the expensive equipment.

It is quite understandable that some surgeons love their laser and use it as often as possible. It is reasonable to use expensive equipment when you had to pay for it, however our concern is the cost-benefit ratio. Does the added cost provide a significant benefit to the patient? If you’ve read this far, you already know the answer… In most cases, Surgical lasers increase cost without benefit.



Your Careteam

Compassionate Advanced Health Care for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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