Laparoscopic Gastropexy: What Is It?

What is a gastropexy?
A gastropexy is a surgical procedure performed in order to prevent Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), commonly called torsion or bloat.  GDV is a life-threatening condition where the stomach flips or twists, trapping air and gases in the stomach. Circulation to the spleen and stomach are cut off, causing the dog to go into shock and, if untreated, die. During a gastropexy, the stomach is attached to the abdominal wall, so that it is unable to twist.

In the past, this procedure was almost always performed in response to a GDV emergency. An emergency gastropexy is performed through a large abdominal incision and because of the critical nature of the patient, there are increased risks associated with it. 

What does a prophylactic or preventive gastropexy mean?
Today, it has become more common practice to perform what is called a prophylactic gastropexy or preventive gastropexy.  This does not keep the stomach from bloating (filling up with gas and air) but it will prevent the stomach from twisting and cutting off circulation, thereby avoiding a life-threatening situation.  There are certain "at-risk" breeds for GDV. These include (but are not limited to) Great Danes, Irish Setters, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, Labradors, and various other giant-breed or deep-chested dogs.

The preventive surgery can be performed at a young age (studies have shown that allowing additional time for gastric development is unnecessary) and can be combined with other procedures (i.e. spay/neuter).  This minimizes the number of occasions your pet is anesthetized.  If your pet is undergoing a routine spay, an abdominal incision is already created and therefore a traditional gastropexy can be performed at the same time. Sometimes, if the breed is large enough laparoscopic incisions can be made for the gastropexy in addition to the traditional spay incision. If your pet is undergoing a neuter or you and your veterinarian decide on an elective gastropexy, a laparoscopic gastropexy is performed.

What is a laparoscopic gastropexy and how do I determine whether or not my pet can have this procedure performed?
Laparoscopic gastropexy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows the surgeon to perform a gastropexy through much smaller incisions than the traditional approach.  A camera is inserted next to the belly button (1cm incision) and then special equipment is used to grasp the stomach and attach it to the body wall.  This occurs via a second incision about 2.5cm (1 inch) just inside the right side of the rib cage.  In general the procedure is associated with less pain and a quicker recovery than the traditional approach.  For veterinarians experienced with the technique, it usually takes the same, if not less time, than the traditional surgery.  The patient goes home the same day as the procedure.  The best way to determine whether or not your pet should undergo this procedure is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the options available.

Generally the procedure is recommended for "at-risk" breeds.  Other considerations include family history, temperament, and dietary history. The cost for a GDV emergency can range from $3000 to $6000 at some emergency clinics. The cost of a preventive laparoscopic gastropexy is usually in the $1400 to $1600 range at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care.

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