Telemetric Endoscopy Could Cure Upper Airway Diagnostic Woes

Upper airway disorders, such as dorsal displacement of the soft palate or dynamic collapse of the upper respiratory tract, can be challenging to diagnose in performance horses. Nonetheless, these are important causes of poor performance and can, in some cases, be career-limiting.

Resting endoscopy remains an inferior diagnostic tool and even endoscopic examination during high speed treadmill exercise is often unable to accurately diagnose upper respiratory tract disorders.

According to a brief communication published by a group of researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, a telemetric endoscope has been designed to enable veterinarians to scope a horse while exercising in its normal environment. The scope is placed in the upper respiratory tract and is attached to a head mounted box. The battery pack and digital video recorder are saddle-mounted. The unit can record the structure and function of the airway during exercise and also permits real-time viewing by transmitting the images to a handheld control box.

Preliminary analysis of the unit in 15 horses (including Thoroughbred racehorses, eventers, and other riding horses) revealed that the unit is capable of producing "excellent diagnostic images" under normal exercising conditions, both while lunging and during fast exercise under saddle.

Similar technology is widely available to client-owned horses in such countries as France, England, Ireland, and Germany but has only recently been introduced to the United States.

Gary Priest, DVM, a Kentucky-based veterinarian, is currently the only equine practitioner to offer the DRS system in the United States. Priest has scoped horses at Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center and Gulfstream Park in Florida, as well as Keeneland to date. The charge for this service is $750 and scopings can be arranged by calling Priest directly at 859/621-7775.

"This technology can be used to diagnose any upper airway impediment that we are otherwise missing or misdiagnosing," said Priest. "Scoping horse with this portable unit puts the horse in as close to a race day environment as possible."

The study, "Clinical trials using a telemetric endoscopy for use during over-ground exercise: A preliminary study," was included in the November 2008 edition of the Equine Veterinary Journal.

Read more: "AAEP 2008: Endoscopy During Exercise Without a Treadmill"

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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