Horses in Ontario, Canada diagnosed with upper airway problems such as "roaring" (also known as left laryngeal hemiplegia) no longer need to be treated under general anesthesia. Nor do they have to shop south of the border for their laser surgery needs.

According to Judith Koenig, Dr Med Vet, DVSc, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, an assistant professor in the department of Large Animal Surgery, "The Ontario Veterinary College is the first facility in the province to offer laser surgery for horses diagnosed with airway abnormalities."

Ontario joins the growing list of veterinary hospitals offering this service including Cornell University, Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, and Washington State University, among others.

"Laser surgery is advantageous over traditional methods of managing upper airway disorders because it can be performed in the standing, sedated horse rather than putting him asleep down on (his) side and cutting muscles," explained Koenig. "It is less invasive, faster, and more economical than traditional approaches."

Plus, use of the technology is backed by scientific evidence.

Researchers from the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Virginia reported that in roarers, laser-assisted ventriculocordectomy (removal of the left vocal cord and saccule) eliminated excessive airway noise in 18/22 horses (82%) and reduced the degree of exercise intolerance in 8/10 (80%) of affected horses.

But "roarers" aren't the only horses that can be helped by this new technology.

"The laser can also be used to correct other throat deformities including epiglottic entrapment, guttural pouch tympany, axial deviation of the aryepiglottic fold, and dorsal displacement of the soft palate," Koenig said.

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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