Gastrointestinal Resection and Anastomosis in Small Mammals

Gastrointestinal resection and anastomosis is the name given to any surgical procedure in which a portion of the gastrointestinal tract is excised or resected, and the remaining ends of the tract are reattached (anastomosis). This procedure is typically performed only in ferrets and rabbits. Size and cost concerns often prohibit this procedure from being performed in smaller animals but can be successfully performed by an experienced surgeon.


Depending on the underlying condition that requires that resection and anastomosis be performed, the prognosis is variable. For benign conditions, such as foreign body obstruction, intussusception, and benign tumors, the prognosis is generally excellent. If perforation of the gastrointestinal tract has occurred due to any cause, the abdominal contents are usually inflamed (peritonitis) and the anastomosis may not heal well. Thus, the presence of abdominal infection generally warrants a guarded prognosis. Some neoplastic conditions carry a poor prognosis because of possible recurrence, while others may be cured with surgery.

Any gastrointestinal resection and anastomosis procedure can be associated with post-operative complications. The most common and serious complication is leakage at the site of the anastomosis. Leakage can be secondary to poor surgical technique, but is usually the result of dehiscence (splitting open) because the edges of the reattached tract were not completely healthy and did not heal well. This complication usually occurs within the first 3 to 5 days after surgery. If dehiscence occurs, gastrointestinal contents leak into the abdomen and cause infection. This requires emergency surgery or euthanasia.

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