Enterolith Location Doesn't Affect Surgical Complications

Enterolith Location Doesn't Affect Surgical Complications

The researchers found that the location of the enteroliths did not affect the number of complications that horses experienced.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Many horse owners have a preconceived idea that a horse will never be the same after intestinal surgery. They think the horse won't be able to perform or be ridden, or that the animal will be more prone to colic. Although some horses may experience these problems, a recent study about surgery for enterolith removal showed that most recover and return to work.

"There are continuous advancements being made that enable veterinarians to improve the care for horses requiring surgery," said Rebecca L. Pierce, BVetMed, of the College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, Tenn.

Pierce and her colleagues compared the incidence of complications and survival in 236 horses that needed surgery to remove enteroliths--stones formed from minerals in the colon--from either the large (ascending) or small (descending) colon.

Surgery involving the small colon is thought of as being more difficult and having a higher complication rate before and after surgery because it is harder for the veterinarian to reach than the large colon. It is also narrower, so an enterolith blocking the small colon tends to cause more severe intestinal damage.

However, the researchers found that the location of the enteroliths did not affect the number of complications that horses experienced. Pierce said that the finding surprised her.

"Based on previous literature and our clinical impression, we were expecting that horses with a descending-colon enterolith would have more complications and decreased survival compared with the ascending colon," Pierce said. "Instead, the analysis performed on our cases showed that both groups of horses had a good prognosis for survival after surgery, and many went back to their original level of work."

An owner can improve the horse's recovery by seeking a veterinarian's help immediately if the horse is colicking because any delay could cause further damage to the horse's intestines.

The study, "Postoperative complications and survival after enterolith removal from the ascending or descending colon in horses," was published March online ahead of print in Veterinary Surgery.

The abstract is available on PubMed.

About the Author

Marie Rosenthal, MS

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