Laparotomy in Ferrets (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information

Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords  
Description Entering the abdomen
  • Incise the skin in the central midline from the xyphoid to the pubic area (for exploratory laparotomy) - usually stopping just cranial to the prepuce in males. (B631.23.w23)
    • A shorter skin incision can be made if the area of interest is know more precisely. (B631.23.w23)
    • The skin is quite thin but the subcuticutar tissues are relatively thick. (B232.19.w19)
  • Identify the linea alba - a wide thin aponeurosis, semi-transparent in very young ferrets. (B631.23.w23)
    • This is well defined. (B232.19.w19)
  • Grasp the linea alba with forceps or haemostat, at the level of the umbilcal scar and elevate it.
  • Using the tip of a scalpel blade, make a small incision in the raised linea alba. (B631.23.w23)
  • Continuing to raise the linea alba with haemostats, use rounded-tip scissors to extend the incision cranially and caudally.
    • Take care not to incise the diaphragm while extending the incision cranially - remember that the thorax is long. (B232.19.w19, B631.23.w23, J15.24.w5)
      • Incision of the diaphragm will result in pneumothorax, which can be life-threatening. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
  • Place a retractor such as the Lone Star Retractor to maximise visualisation of, and access to, the abdominal cavity. (B631.23.w23)
  • Note: there is often a substantial amount of fat in the abdomen. (J15.24.w5)

After the surgical procedure

  • Suture the abdominal wall in an interrupted pattern using 2-3 metric (3/0 or 2/0 USP) monofilament absorbable suture material such as polydioxanone (PDS) or polyglecaprone (Monocryl).
    • A large number of single sutures improves pressure distirbution over the suture line. (B631.23.w23)
    • Use suture material which is as small as possible. (B631.23.w23)
    • Use of a continuous suture is not recommended, due to the active behaviour of ferrets and the length of the incision. (B631.23.w23)
  • Either close the skin with an intradermal suture, 1.5 - 1 metric (4/0 or 5/0 USP) absorbable monofilament in a continuous pattern. (B631.23.w23)
    • Subcuticular suture with a fine absorbable suture material is recommended. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
  • OR suture the skin with interrupted sutures using a non-absorbable 2 metric (3/0 USP) suture material suh as nylon or polypropalene. (B631.23.w23)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Exploratory laparotomy is useful in the diagnosis of many diseases. (B631.23.w23)
  • Serosanguinous discharge is common following laparotomy, especially after prolonged procedures, but is self-limiting. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Wide areas of echymoses are commonly noted on the abdominal skin by 24-48 hours after laparotomy, but this usually clears within a few days. (B631.23.w23)
  • Ferrets are likely to chew sutures if the sutures are uncomfortable. (B232.19.w19, J15.24.w5)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Standard anaesthetic equipment

  • Surgical equipment.

  • Suture materials.

  • Retractor, e.g. Lone Star Retractor.

Expertise level / Ease of Use This is a surgical technique. This procedure should only be carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience.
Cost/ Availability

The costs of a surgical operation include those associated with: (J15.30.w1)

  • Pre-operative diagnostics (e.g. radiography, ultrasonography, blood tests)
  • Anaesthesia.
  • Perioperative medication (e.g. analgesics, antibiotics, fluids).
  • Surgical preparation (of the operating theatre and the patient, including staff time).
  • Consumables and equipment.
  • Time of the surgeon and assistant(s).
  • Post-operative hospitalisation.
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
Author Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
References B232.19.w19, B631.23.w23, J15.24.w5

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