Reptile surgery

Research title:

Standardization of  minimally invasive surgical procedures in wild and captive reptiles.

Tutor: Prof. Stefano Romussi


Contact details

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State of the art

Before the 1990’s, there were only sporadic reports of reptile endoscopy, the majority of which described the use of endoscopy to examine or retrieve foreign objects from the gastrointestinal tract, along with case descriptions of coelioscopy, bronchoscopy and urogenital endoscopy. More recently validation of endoscopic procedures in lizards (e.g. liver and kidney biopsy in iguanas), chelonians (e.g. renal biopsy and neonate gender indentification) and snakes (e.g. pulmonoscopy in ball pythons) have helped confirm its safety and diagnostic values. On the other hand, given the often small and fragile nature of reptile pets, the development of minimal invasive surgery is the logical evolution in their surgical care, particularly with chelonians. Standardized endoscopic and endoscopic-assisted surgical procedures in reptiles include oophorectomy (both of immature and mature females) and orchidectomy in chelonians, and orchidectomy in green iguanas. Other advanced techniques, such as laser, radiofrequency, LigaSure technology and operating microscope-assisted microsurgery, have been successfully applied on reptiles, but with poor standardization so far. General anaesthesia , the choice of protocols and the monitoring techniques represents in most cases one of the limitations in creating a standard. Current obstacles to our understanding of both reptile anesthesia and analgesia include: 1) inadequate knowledge of anesthetic and analgesic efficacy, safety, dosages and dosing frequency across species; 2) inability to properly monitor anesthetic depth; 3) poor knowledge of pharmacokinetics of anesthetic and analgesic drugs and of the relationship between risks and benefits for specific drugs; and 4) subjectivity and difficulty associated with pain assessment.

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The main aims of the project are to

1)      Develop and standardize new minimal invasive surgical procedures for the resolution of common conditions in captive and wild reptiles;

2)   Develop safe and efficient anesthetic protocol for common surgical procedure;

3)   Develop behavioral models to create a specie-specific pain scale


Recent publications of the tutor in the field

1) Alonge, S., Romussi, S., Grieco, V., Luvoni, G.C. Congenital abnormality of the vagina complicated by haemato-pyocolpos in a 1-year labrador retriever (2015) Reproduction in Domestic Animals, 50 (3), pp. 514-516.

2) Pichetto, M., Arrighi, S., Gobbetti, M., Romussi, S. The Anatomy of the Dog Soft Palate. III. Histological Evaluation of the Caudal Soft Palate in Brachycephalic Neonates (2015) Anatomical Record, 298 (3), pp. 618-623.

3) Ferrari, R., Boracchi, P., Romussi, S., Ravasio, G., Stefanello, D. Application of hyaluronic acid in the healing of non-experimental open wounds: A pilot study on 12 wounds in 10 client-owned dogs (2015) Veterinary World, 8 (10), pp. 1247-1259.

4) Banco, B., Giudice, C., Ghisleni, G., Romussi, S., Behar, D.K., Grieco, V. Immunohistochemical study of mixed germ cell sex cord stromal tumours in 13 canine testes (2015) Journal of Comparative Pathology, 152 (2-3), pp. 182-187.

5) Caccamo, R., Buracco, P., La Rosa, G., Cantatore, M., Romussi, S. Glottic and skull indices in canine brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome (2014) BMC Veterinary Research, 10