Penn Vet’s Kimberly Agnello, a Boston Marathon finisher, is a dedicated athlete, so it’s only appropriate that she performs surgeries that help return injured dogs, cats, and other animals back to their active selves as quickly as possible.
Agnello, a surgeon and assistant professor of small animal surgery, has a special interest in minimally invasive orthopedic surgery. Just as humans can get their knee or shoulder “scoped,” animals now get the same advanced treatment.
As opposed to surgeries of old, which often involved large incisions and invasive techniques, arthroscopic procedures involve cutting only very small “portholes” through which surgeons can insert their tools and a camera to visualize their work. As a result, healing times and complications rates for injuries such as cartilage tears, elbow dysplasia, and even bone fractures have been greatly reduced.
Penn Vet has a uniquely advanced facility for Agnello and other surgeons to perform these kinds of cutting-edge procedures. The Minimally Invasive Surgical Suite, located in Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, opened just over a year ago. Among its many features are six high-definition video screens that can simultaneously display real-time X-rays, CT scans, an ongoing video of the surgery, the image from the arthroscopic camera, and even patient records. Another screen located outside the operating room allows students and others to observe surgeries in progress. The suite is also equipped with teleconferencing amenities so images or videos can be shared remotely.
“Say it’s the middle of the night and somebody is in trouble [during a procedure],” says Agnello. “It’s going to take me 20 minutes to get [to Ryan Hospital], whereas the surgeon can [now] just send me the images and I can look at them at home and offer immediate advice and help.”
In addition to treating injured pets, Agnello and her colleagues also care for service animals, including the Philadelphia Police Department’s K9 unit. The tough work of being a police dog can sometimes lead to injuries, and Agnello says arthroscopic and other minimally invasive surgeries put the animals on the road to recovery sooner.
“When police officers bring in their dogs, that’s always their first question: When can they get back to work?” she says.
Agnello’s own golden retriever, Rosie, has benefited from the state-of-the-art surgical suite. Agnello adopted Rosie after she was surrendered to Ryan Hospital, due to a problem with urinary incontinence and elbow dysplasia. Both conditions were treated using minimally invasive techniques.
“I even performed her spay minimally invasively using laparoscopy,” Agnello says. Rosie now repays the favor to Penn Vet. She was recently certified as a therapy dog, and frequently participates in class to help students practice their examination skills.
Originally published on January 31, 2013