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Abdominal Exploratory in Dogs

By: Dr. Cathy Reese

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Abdominal exploratory surgery, also called exploratory laparotomy, refers to almost any non-specific surgery of the abdomen. Many times, surgery is done for a specific reason, such as an ovariohysterectomy (spay) or cystotomy (removing stones from the urinary bladder). However, when surgery is done to investigate a possible problem with an abdominal organ, the surgery is termed an exploratory.

During an exploratory laparotomy, every organ in the abdomen is inspected for abnormalities. Possible abnormalities found may include: foreign bodies in the stomach or intestines; tumors on any organ; stones in the kidneys or ureters; twisting of the stomach, intestines, or spleen; tears or openings in the abdominal wall or diaphragm, allowing organs to herniate (protrude) through the opening; inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis); stones in the gall bladder or bile duct; abscesses on any organ; or rupture of any organ.

After an abnormality is identified, it is either removed, taken for biopsy, or otherwise repaired. If no obvious abnormalities are found, the surgery is often termed a "negative exploratory." In this case, biopsies are taken of several organs suspected to be the cause of the pet's symptoms to try to identify microscopic evidence of disease.

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