Complications in small animal soft tissue surgery

Soft tissue surgery is both an art that requires special training and a science that involves constant study. Complications are intimately intertwined with canine and feline surgery and are ultimately an inevitable event. Only those who do not operate do not encounter complications. Most intraoperative or postoperative complications are due partly to technical errors and in large part to disease progression and non-technical skills. The rapid development of surgery in both the diagnosis and treatment of surgical conditions requires the continuous learning of new surgical techniques, that are often characterized by difficult learning curves. Training in surgery requires many years of postgraduate studies under an experienced surgeon who will first show the resident the surgical techniques and then supervise and assist the resident in performing the surgery. Cadaveric seminars, very popular nowadays, help in learning some basic techniques but in no way substitute for training through a continuous exchange of experience and correction of failures, such valuable elements in the acquisition of surgical literacy. Non-technical skills constitute a large part of surgical education involving surgeon coordination, situational awareness, and knowledge, communication, and teamwork. The introduction of a checklist for each surgical procedure can reduce the incidence of surgical complications. The introduction of a relevant checklist may reduce the incidence of post-operative infections and surgical gauzes often left in the abdominal or thoracic cavity of small animals. Surgical complications have a significant impact on the mentality and emotional world of surgeons and not infrequently distract the surgeon from performing difficult procedures. The author of this article and his team have at one time or another found themselves in a “bad week” with cases ending for reasons independent of failure or surgical error. The result of these events was a drop in the morale of the team. Continuing in the right direction and a high-risk strategy was the answer to dealing with the surgical complications we encountered.

Lysimachos G. Papazoglou
Professor of Surgery
School of Veterinary Medicine
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki



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