Endoscopy uses cameras and lenses to examine internal body structures which would otherwise not be visible. This usually involves inserting the endoscope through a body orifice to examine the inside of a structure. In this way we can examine the oesophagus, stomach, proximal duodenum, rectum, nose, trachea and bladder.
Most animals will require a general anaesthetic for endoscopy as they will not tolerate the insertion of the endoscope and there is a risk of damage to the expensive equipment required.
We have 10mm, 8mm and 6mm flexible video endoscopes, which can be manoeuvred to look around inside the stomach or up the back of the nose. The image is displayed on a monitor.
These endoscopes have a channel through which fine biopsy forceps or grabbers can be passed. This enables us to take biopsy samples of what we are looking at or retrieve small foreign objects (such as a fish hook).
We also have 4mm and 2.7mm rigid endoscopes. These have the advantage of looking into smaller spaces, such as noses, cat airways and even the bladder of a female dog. Unfortunately these endoscopes do not have a channel to pass grabbers or biopsy forceps down, so taking samples or retrieving foreign objects with these is more difficult.
These rigid endoscopes can be sterilised for use during keyhole surgery. We currently use the smaller scope for arthroscopy (see below).
Endoscopes are not only a diagnostic tool. Our endoscopes are also useful for the retrieval of foreign objects in the oesophagus, for example a dog who found that a whole rabbit's head was a little hard to swallow. The combination of a large rigid tube, an endoscope and a special pair of long grasping forceps saved this dog from some very risky surgery.
The smallest of our rigid scopes is used for arthroscopy (keyhole surgery on joints). The endoscope with a special camera attached is introduced through a small stab incision into the joint and the interior of the joint can be examined.
Instruments introduced into other stab incisions can enable surgery within the joint, such as the removal of loose bone fragments.