The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 3, 2006

Radio-wave pen used for surgery on pets

MAPLETON — Winston, the 12-year-old cocker spaniel, is breathing easily under sedation, hooked to monitors and oxygen.

Veterinarian Tim Klein and assistant Jo Olson cover the dog, with just his left eye showing through the blue sheet.

The surgery — on a small tumor growing on his upper eyelid — is relatively simple. But in the past, using a scalpel, there would have been heavy bleeding as the tissue was cut away, leaving the vet to clean blood from Winston’s eye and stitch up the incision.

But on this morning, Klein slides a tip into a radio wave surgical pen. He pulls the eyelid up with a tweezers while Olson slides a tongue depressor, coated with salve, over Winston’s eyeball to protect it.

Klein carefully runs the pen tip along the tumor. A small stream of smoke rises and a faint smell of burning hair wafts through the surgery room.

“That’s it,” says Klein. The tumor is removed and there’s not a drop of blood. Winston’s given a shot to snap him out of the anesthesia and will be watched until his owner, Stacey Beschorner picks him up in the afternoon.

The next morning, Beschorner of Minnesota Lake, said all was well. “He was a little sluggish but doing real well. I’m glad to have that tumor off his eye.”

More veterinarians are turning to high-tech equipment that has been reserved mostly for human medicine.

“People really care about their pets and they want to do the right thing for them,” said Klein, a vet at South Central Veterinary Associates in Mapleton.

Until recently, pet surgery was done solely with scalpels. In recent years, laser scalpels have come into use in many vet clinics. The lasers provide quicker recovery and less bleeding, in part because they seal small blood vessels as the laser burns and cuts.

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