First laser lithotripsy performed at UF SAH

Dr. Alex Gallagher with Sammy Siler and his owner, Gail Siler, in the UF Small Animal Hospital.
Dr. Alex Gallagher with Sammy Siler and his owner, Gail Siler, in the UF Small Animal Hospital.

In May, a 9-year-old Chihuahua named Sammy became the first patient at the UF Small Animal Hospital to receive a procedure known as laser lithotripsy to remove a stone lodged in his urethra. Three months later, Sammy, who has experienced chronic problems with bladder blockages from a young age, is still stone-free.

Sammy’s owner came to UF in November 2010 for help with Sammy’s recurrent urinary tract infections and bladder stones. Traditional surgery was performed to remove the bladder stones, but a single stone remain lodged in the urethra. While surgery could be performed on the urethra, due to the possible complications, the owners elected to wait for a new therapy.

Sammy returned to UF in May 2011 to have laser lithotripsy. Laser lithotripsy is a non-invasive procedure commonly used to remove stones from the urinary tract. Frequently used in human medicine, the procedure involves a laser fiber being passed through a cystoscope to locate the stones, which are then blasted apart through a burst of laser energy. The stone fragments can then be removed or left to pass through the urinary system on their own.

“Everything went perfectly,” said Sammy’s owner, Gail Siler.“We wouldn’t ask for anything better. We were very pleased.”

Traditionally, stones in the bladder or urethra were removed with surgery, said Dr. Alex Gallagher, who performed Sammy’s procedure. “In some cases this involved making an incision into the urethra. Possible complications have included scarring or leakage of the bladder or urethra.

“Laser lithotripsy allows us to remove stones from the urinary tract without making any incisions. In most cases, this is an outpatient procedure,” he added.

Gallagher and other UF veterinary faculty members have received training in the procedure and are making use of a new piece of equipment, the Holmium YAG laser unit, which was installed soon after the opening of the hospital last fall.

“Not all patients are candidates for this procedure,” Gallagher said. “Female dogs with a small stone burden in the bladder or urethra are typically good candidates. Urethral stones in male dogs can also typically be treated with laser lithotripsy as well.”

He added that currently, UF is not using laser lithotripsy to remove bladder stones from male dogs except in specific cases where other treatment options cannot be done.”

“Dr. Gallagher has recommended that Sammy come in every two months for a check-up to make sure there were no more stones and to keep him under control as much as I can,” said Sammy’s owner, Gail Siler. “Sammy has had his problems, but he has always been a joy to me. I’d do anything I had to, to make him well.”

–By Sarah Carey