Complications of Gastrointestinal Surgery in Companion Animals

Gary W. Ellison, DVM, MS
Vet Clin Small Anim 41 (2011) 915–934. 
September 2011

The small animal surgeon routinely creates wounds in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for biopsy, for foreign body or neoplasm removal for correction of gastric dilatation volvulus, or to relieve intestinal and colonic obstruction. Unlike dehiscence of a skin wound, which is often easily remedied with appropriate local wound treatment, dehiscence of a wound of the GI tract often leads to generalized bacterial peritonitis and potentially death. Consequently, technical failures and factors that negatively affect GI healing are of great clinical significance to the surgeon. Surgery of the GI tract must be considered clean-contaminated at best, and as one progresses aborally down the GI tract, the bacterial population increases. Therefore, intraoperative spillage, wound dehiscence, or perforations that occur in the lower small intestine or colon tend to be associated with a higher mortality rate than those of the stomach or upper small intestine.

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