CO2 laser surgery goes swimmingly swell for Frank

Patrick Talbert, a vet tech at Carrboro Plaza Veterinary Clinic in Carrboro, NC, has kept goldfish as pets for 17 years.

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Patrick Talbert, a vet tech at Carrboro Plaza Veterinary Clinic in Carrboro, NC, has kept goldfish as pets for 17 years. And one who still lives to this day—a comet named Frank—appeared to have a dime-sized bump on his left side, which Patrick's mother, Zandra, noticed in September 2010.

Frank, a 17-year-old comet goldfish, gets anesthetized by a solution of a powdered anesthetic mixed with his own aquarium water. The dosage was sporadic until he ceased movement.

Zandra contacted veterinarian Erik Dorsch, DVM, of The Animal Hospital of Carrboro, who is also a life-long fish hobbyist. He told Zandra that Frank's growth could eventually affect his swimming and quality of life; therefore, he scheduled Frank for surgery in October.

Erik Dorsch, DVM, of The Animal Hospital of Carrboro (Carrboro, NC), excises the fibrosarcoma from Frank the goldfish using a Type 1 Class B CO2 laser, which cauterizes nerve endings to alleviate bleeding and eliminates the need for sutures.

Dorsch first anesthetized Frank in a "solution" of his own aquarium water with sprinklings of a powdered anesthetic, which he sprinkled in a bit at a time until he knew that Frank would cease flopping or wiggling around. Once Frank was sedated and safely removed from the water, he used the Luxar 20SI Class 1 Type B CO2 laser at a continuous-wave (CW) power to remove the mass, which was raised, orange and about 3 cm in diameter just behind his pectoral fin, he told BioOptics World. He used a 0.4 mm tip at 6 W to cut the mass off at scale level parallel with the body wall. He didn't want to cut into Frank's body cavity because he wouldn't be able to stitch him up afterward. He then increased the laser to 8 W to "paint" the area to try to decrease any oozing from the site and cauterize any cells that remained after mass removal. Using the CO2 laser allowed less bleeding, cauterizing nerve endings so it doesn't hurt as much as a scalpel. And as for the length of the surgery? "Frank was out for two minutes at the most," he said.

The fibrosarcoma mass, which measures 3 cm in diameter, was removed from Frank the goldfish.

The tumor turned out to be a fibrosarcoma, which is malignant and occurs primarily in humans, dogs and cats. Thankfully, fibrosarcomas are superficial and fish that have had them do well for a long time after removal, with only a recurrence on the outer surface.

A week post-op, Frank appeared to be healing very well, and already looked to be regrowing his scales, according to Dorsch.

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