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JAVMA Papers Report on Alternative to Surgery for Bladder Stones

Surgery is an important tool for medical professionals. For many syndromes, surgical intervention is the only appropriate therapy. And for many vets, performing surgery is...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  May 20th 2009


Surgery is an important tool for medical professionals. For many syndromes, surgical intervention is the only appropriate therapy. And for many vets, performing surgery is fun.

However, individuals on the other end of the scalpel rarely enjoy the experience. Surgery inevitably leads to pain. Surgical recoveries can be lengthy, uncomfortable, and fraught with the risk of complications.

In general, it is best to choose the least invasive treatment for any given syndrome. Consider a pet dog that swallows a pine cone and suffers from intestinal obstruction. If possible it is best to remove the pine cone with an endoscope (a flexible tube with a camera and various instruments that is passed through the mouth into the intestines) rather than with surgery.

Bladder stones are relatively common in dogs and cats. Historically, veterinarians have resorted to opening the bladder and removing certain types of stones surgically.

However, two articles in the May 15, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) report on an alternative technique. A catheter containing a laser is passed into the bladder through the urethra. The laser is used to break down the stone (or stones), and the fragments are removed through the catheter.

The studies found that the new technique is as safe and effective as surgery. The technique is less painful, and recovery is more rapid. The studies only addressed bladder stones in dogs; however, similar techniques hopefully will be available soon for cats.

Unfortunately, the new procedure generally only is available through specialists (almost any vet can surgically remove bladder stones). In time, however, more veterinarians may acquire the necessary instruments to treat bladder stones less invasively.

Photo: not that type of laser. Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos. License: click here.