Foreign Body Surgery

By January 10, 2012 July 14th, 2012 Interesting Cases

Daisy is a 6 year old, female West Highland Terrier. Shortly after Christmas, Daisy began vomiting, stopped eating, and was seeming very lethargic at home. Unsure of the cause of Daisy’s illness, Daisy’s owner brought her in for examination.

When Daisy was examined, she was dehydrated and seemed very tense when her abdomen was palpated. Although Daisy’s mom doesn’t normally feed Daisy any table scraps, or human food, with so many guests visiting her home for the holidays, she wasn’t sure what Daisy may have gotten into! Bloodwork and radiographs (xrays) were recommended and Daisy was admitted into hospital for IV fluids (to treat her dehydration) and supportive care.

Daisy’s radiographs showed a suspicious pattern of gas in her intestines. When a dog ingests a foreign object or ‘foreign body’ that is unable to pass through the gastrointestinal system (such as a toy, rock, part of a blanket or clothing, etc), it may cause an obstruction. An obstruction may show up on radiographs as a build-up of gas in the blocked portion of intestine. In order to confirm the presence of a foreign body, a patient is fed a liquid called barium, a radioopaque dye that shows up on an xray to outline the problem area. In Daisy’s case, the barium showed there was an obstruction present in the small intestines, and an exploratory surgery was recommended in order to evaluate and remove the foreign body.

Radiograph of intestine showing barium dye (bright white material) and pockets of gas (black areas in intestines).

During surgery, a thick, firm foreign body was located in the jejunum, the middle segment of the small intestines, between the duodenum and the ileum. The jejunum surrounding the foreign body was red and inflamed, and the tissue directly overlying it was black and thinning, indicating necrosis, or dying tissue. Unfortunately, once a piece of tissue has undergone necrosis, it can no longer heal itself and has to be removed. An intestinal anastomosis was performed on Daisy – a procedure during which a piece of intestine is removed, and the two healthy ends are sewn back together. This procedure removed not only the offending foreign body (which was a piece of Daisy’s toy), but also the necrotic tissue. If necessary, dogs can survive after removal of up to 65% of small intestines without long term consequences. Fortunately for Daisy, she only had about a 6-8” segment removed!

Area of intestine that contained the foreign body. Note the area of blackened/thin tissue lying over the toy found in the intestine. This is the area of necrosis.

Daisy has done great since surgery! She’s home, eating her normal diet with gusto and hasn’t had any vomiting since the surgery!