Colic Surgery Outcomes Improved by Recent Advances

Today's colicking horse has a good chance for survival, said Gal Kelmer, DVM, MS, who recently wrote a review of equine colic surgery advances for Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice.

A horse's anatomy puts it at risk for colic: the long intestine and colon are prone to twisting and obstructions that can prevent blood and oxygen delivery, killing the tissue and requiring removal.

"In addition, the size of the abdomen, and the weight of the horse apply huge stresses on the body wall, especially in the immediate recovery from general anaesthesia," said Kelmer, from the Koret Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "We now have decent techniques to close the abdomen with confidence that the incision can hold."

Another major advancement is the resection of intestine--the dead tissue can be cut out and the intestine sewn back together. "Before, any horse that needed part of its intestine removed was considered doomed," he said. But now, these horses can function well after surgery.

If a horse becomes colicky, make sure the veterinarian refers it to a referral center if it does not respond to initial treatment. "Do not wait for the horse to be a 100% surgical candidate since that may make surgery more complicated and expensive, and likely too late," he recommended.

Carefully follow the discharge recommendations and call your veterinarian immediately if there is a problem.

The study, "Update on recent advances in equine abdominal surgery," was published in the August issue of the Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice. The abstract is available on PubMed.  

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