Referral Dystocias

Rolf Embertson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, a surgeon on the staff at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. described their on-call dystocia and neonate teams at the annual meeting of the Society For Theriogenology and American College of Theriogenologists (ACT), which was held in conjunction with the annual AAEP meeting. The four-person dystocia team can be at the hospital within 10 to 20 minutes of being notified of an emergency.

"The focus is on speed," he told the group. "If we can't get the foal out in 15 minutes, we go immediately to a C-section, if the foal is alive. If we do a C-section, we want the foal delivered within 20 minutes from the time we begin the procedure."

The hospital did a retrospective study on the success rate of 248 cases of dystocia between 1986 and 1999. Approximately 80% of the mares involved, he said, were Thoroughbreds between three to 24 years of age. Of the cases admitted, 177 (71%) of the dystocias were resolved with controlled vaginal delivery (CVD). Another 61 (25%) were resolved by C-section, and nine (4%) were resolved by fetotomy (dismembering the foal and delivering it a piece at a time).

Of the 248 mares presented, he said, 226 (91%)survived and were discharged from the hospital. In 104 of the 248 cases (42%), a live foal was delivered, with 73 (70%) surviving to discharge.

Embertson urged veterinarians to educate clients on how to recognize and handle dystocia problems until a veterinarian can be summoned, and he also urged veterinarians to respond quickly and to know when a case should be referred to an equine hospital.

More from the ACT meeting will appear in the February issue of The Horse.

About the Author

Les Sellnow

Les Sellnow is a free-lance writer based near Riverton, Wyo. He specializes in articles on equine research, and operates a ranch where he raises horses and livestock. He has authored several fiction and non-fiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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