New minimally invasive treatment for abnormal shunt vessels

The small animal surgery service at the U-Vet Hospital is a leader in developing minimally invasive treatments for dogs and cats to avoid large open surgical procedures


Image: Dr. Stewart Ryan with Cleo, the first intrahepatic shunt patient treated at U-Vet Hospital

Portosystemic shunts (PSS) are abnormal communications between the portal vein and the circulation taking blood back to the heart. Shunts refer to holes or small passages that move, or allows movement of, fluid from one part of the body to another. When a shunt vessel is present, the liver does not receive the normal amount of blood from the portal vein so nutrients are not absorbed, toxins are not removed and protein production is reduced.


Image: The team performing an IR procedure for shunt attenuation

So far the team have performed over 10 interventional radiology (IR) procedures to close abnormal shunt vessels within the liver.

The whole procedure is done through a small access point in the jugular vein in the neck. IR uses wires and catheters passed through blood vessel to deliver stents and coils to close abnormal blood vessels. Dogs treated with this technique avoid a major invasive open surgical procedure that has significant risks.


Image: X-ray of a stent (metal/plastic tube) in caudal vena cava, a large vein returning deoxygenated blood to the heart, and coils in shunt vessel.

To date dogs treated with IR have done very well with return to normal clinical activity and status and reduction in need for medications and diet.

There are many surgery procedures that can be done using IR techniques. To find out more please contact the small animal surgery service at vet-sa-surgery@unimelb.edu.au

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