New laparoscopic training advances veterinary surgical skills

By Alyssa Patrick, Office of Research

fransson boelPULLMAN, Wash. – For the first time, veterinary surgeons can take a simulation training and earn a certification that demonstrates their manual skills in laparoscopy, a minimally-invasive procedure that means less pain and faster recovery for patients.

WSU researcher and board certified veterinary surgeon, Boel Fransson, developed the Veterinary Assessment Laparoscopic Skills (VALS) training program, set up training centers around the country, and convened an international board of peers to grant the certification.

The training and tools are available online at, and the first test for official certification will take place in October.

Better for pets, challenging for surgeons

Dr. Fransson began practicing laparoscopic surgery in 2007, because she liked the benefits it had for her patients. However, she quickly found that laparoscopy was a challenging technical procedure.

“They say when you move from open surgery to laparoscopy, you move the pain from the patient to the surgeon,” Fransson said.

Fransson and other veternarians demonstrate training through VALS program
Fransson and other veterinarian’s demonstrate training through VALS program

Laparoscopy uses relatively thin instruments and cameras to perform abdominal surgeries without needing to make large incisions. The surgeon guides the small tools and tiny video camera through a tube into the body, and performs the procedure by watching the live feed. It requires precision and small movements to be effective and safe. In the human health care field, physicians are required to take simulation trainings and become board certified to perform laparoscopic surgery.

When Fransson decided she wanted to perform these surgeries on animals, the only way to gain skills was through practicing on cadavers, or starting with simple techniques on patients and developing the skill slowly. So, she decided to develop a training and certification process for veterinarians.

“The goal is to make the surgery safer, and allow surgeons to develop advanced skills more quickly outside of the operating room,” Fransson said.

Certification provides confidence

Working with WSU’s Office of Commercialization, Fransson established a relationship and licensing deal with Limbs & Things,, a company that sells the simulation laparoscopy tools. She developed training videos and a website, and established training centers around the country. The training program takes about 10 hours, part of which is done at home and part at the training centers.

Once veterinarian surgeons complete the training, they take a test which is evaluated by an international board of veterinarians Fransson convened. Those who pass are officially granted a VALS certification.

Establishing a standard certification also benefits pet owners, giving them peace of mind that their pet is in the hands of a surgeon who is competent in laparoscopic skills.

Currently the training and certification are available to board certified veterinary surgeons only, but Fransson plans to expand to general practitioners in the future.


Media Contacts: 

  • Boel Fransson, associate professor, small animal surgery, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-5669,
  • Laura Lockard, director of communication, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-4350,