Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences has been using percutaneous laser disc ablation surgery, an interventional radiologic procedure, on canine patients for almost 15 years with proven success, according to Robert Bahr, DVM, Dipl. ACVR, associate professor of radiology.
The procedure is designed to prevent the recurrence of disc herniation with subsequent spinal cord damage.
The procedure was first investigated by Oklahoma State’s George Henry, DVM, and Kenneth Bartels, DVM. Initial studies focused on the effects of laser treatment on tissues similar to the intervertebral disc material.
The scope of the research was to discover the effects of laser energy on intervertebral disc material and how denatured disc might be kept from extruding or herniating in the future, causing spinal cord injury.
Since 1993, when the procedure was first used on clinically affected dogs, Oklahoma’s teaching hospital has treated more than 300 cases. The success rate, which is based on the rate of recurrence in the treated dogs, has been good.
“Our success rate is 96.6 percent,” Dr. Bahr said. “That means that out of all the dogs treated since the project began in 1993 (some 325 dogs total), only nine dogs (3.4 percent) have had repeat disc herniations.”
There are other surgical procedures to treat the disease, such as disc fenestration, but it is more complicated and painful for the dog, according to Oklahoma State’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.
The laser surgery—which Oklahoma State says is provided only by OSU—is done by placing needles through the skin into the centers of seven different disc locations while the dog is under general anesthesia. An X-ray is taken to ensure that each needle tip has been placed accurately in the center of each treated disc.
A Holmium:YAG laser fiber is then put through the needle, into the center of the disc, and the laser energy is turned on. This liquefies the disc material, and scar tissue forms, which prevents the disc from herniating and injuring the spinal cord in the future.
The procedure is indicated for dogs that are experiencing only “back pain.” It is not recommended for dogs with signs of spinal compression, according to the university’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.
The veterinary teaching hospital treats two to five disc cases a week, Bahr said.