Roaring Improved after Electroacupuncture

Electroacupuncture--the electrical stimulation of acupuncture points--can be an effective method of controlling laryngeal hemiplegia (roaring), reported researchers performing the technique on horses presented to the Veterinary Medical Center of the University of Florida.

The common scientific term for roaring is laryngeal hemiplegia. In this condition, muscles of the horse's larynx are unable to function correctly, primarily because of nerve dysfunction. When the horse breathes, the arytenoid cartilage on one or both sides of the throat obstruct the airway, causing a whistling or roaring sound as air is drawn through.

Traditional non-surgical treatments for roaring include topical dimethylsulfoxide and oral anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgical treatments include vocal fold resection, arytenoidectomy, and laryngoplasty, among others.

"Surgical procedures may be impractical for the treatment of laryngeal hemiplegia in horses if the problem occurs during the sale season. Therefore, horse owners often try to find alternative methods for the long-term prevention or treatment of laryngeal disease," the researchers wrote.

While traditional acupuncture has been used in equine clinics for reproductive disorders, foot lameness, and back pain, limited mechanistic data exists. Electroacupuncture is a form of the treatment in which electric current passes through needles inserted in specific pairs of acupuncture points. Proponents say the electrical current stimulates a larger area and provides stronger pain relief than traditional dry needle acupuncture.

The use of either type of acupuncture for roarers has not previously been reported.

The researchers considered 18 Thoroughbred horses referred to the Veterinary Medical Center of the University of Florida. They performed electroacupuncture once weekly for between three and seven sessions, depending on severity of the disease.

"The grade of laryngeal disease improved in all the horses after electroacupuncture therapy, and no side effects were observed," relayed the authors. "The results of this study suggest that electroacupuncture may serve as an effective non-surgical method for the control of laryngeal hemiplegia."

The study, "Use of electroacupuncture to treat laryngeal hemiplegia in horses," was published in the November 13, 2009 edition of the journal The Veterinary Record. Co-authors were M.S. Kim, DVM, PhD, from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Chonbuk National University in South Korea and H. Xie, DVM, PhD, from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. Subscribers to The Veterinary Record can access the full text online.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.