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Declawing Myths

The Truths and Myths About Laser Feline Declaw Surgery

There is a lot of talk about laser surgery being used in veterinary medicine, especially when it comes to feline declaw surgeries.  Unfortunately, a lot of what is said or even posted on web pages is a lot of hype.  There have actually been very few scientific studies, especially blinded studies to prove a lot of what is said about laser surgery.  Below is a list of truths and myths about laser surgery for you to review, so that you can make up your own mind on if laser surgery is what it says it is.

Statements made by laser surgery advocates:

 

1.) Laser surgery is less bloody than standard scalpel blade surgery.

-This is true; there is less blood with laser surgery than with standard scalpel surgery.  This is because the laser instantly cauterizes or burns the vessels as they are encountered.  That being said electrosurgery or radiosurgery units can achieve the same results that lasers can, and with less time and anesthesia.

 

2.) Laser surgery is less painful than standard scalpel blade based surgery.

-This is probably the biggest false statement made by laser advocates.  With proper pre and post surgical pain control and nerve blocks, there have been no scientific studies showing that show cats having laser declaw surgeries are any more or less painful than those having scalpel blade or electrocautery declaw surgeries.


3.) Cats recover faster from laser surgery than with traditional declaw surgery.

-Once again this is a false statement that has been promoted recently. There is no scientific proof that cats recover any faster from laser declaw surgeries than with scalpel blade or electrosurgery (radiosurgery) units.  In fact a recent study showed that when you use lasers or radiosurgery an area or tissue surrounding the tissue is burned (cauterized).  The body then has to take longer to bridge the gap at the incision site and heal versus with a scalpel blade incision where the incision forms a clot and has less work to bridge the gap between the incision site.  Another study showed that Ultra High-Frequency Radiosurgery did less tissue damage around the incision site than either the laser or traditional radiosurgery.  (Reference - Radiosurgery: An Alternative to Laser in Veterinary Medicine (VET-340) Western Veterinary Conference 2004 A.D. Elkins, DVM, MS; DACVS Veterinary Specialty Center, LLC Indianapolis, IN, USA)


Disadvantages to laser surgery:

1.) Time; in many cases laser declaws require more time and more anesthesia time.  More anesthesia time can increase the risk to the patient (the pet) while under anesthesia.

2.) If the operator is not careful thermal necrosis or burns can occur with both laser and radiosurgery.  This risk is not present with traditional scalpel blade surgery.

3.) Requires protective eyewear for all persons within the surgical environment. Eyewear is typically uncomfortable and fogs which inhibits visualization.

4.) Dedicated laser operator is required to position the laser in "Ready" or "Standby" modes as well as to manage parameter adjustments.

5.) Fragile fiber optic or articulating arms can be a hindrance to the movement in and around the surgical field, not to mention present hazards to the operating personnel.

6.) Ten to forty-fold price differential over radiosurgery instruments.  Thus this is passed on to the client for the declaw procedure.

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