Dynamic obstructions of the equine respiratory tract are often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed with resting endoscopy. So veterinarians usually perform endoscopy on exercising horses using treadmills, in order to try to reproduce the exercise conditions. However, treadmills are only available in limited places and facilities. At the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif., Youssef Tamzali, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, of the Ecole Veterinarie de Toulouse in France, described a two-year collaborative effort between engineers and clinicians that resulted in an endoscope that can be used on horses exercising under natural conditions.


Dr. Youssef Tamzali tells us more about the excerise endoscopy system.
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The fiberoptic portion of an endoscope is a tube with an automatic lighting source, and it is malleable enough to be affixed to a bridle system. Remote controlled levers and an integrated lavage system clear the airway of debris to allow continuous viewing. A box containing electronics and a battery are placed on a rider or on a sulky, then video is recorded on an SD card or transmitted to a control screen less than 600 meters away. The information obtained is of good visual quality because the malleable tube produces stable video images.

Abnormal airway noises can be evaluated effectively with this equipment. Common causes of abnormal noise or exercise intolerance include laryngeal hemiplegia, dorsal displacement of the soft palate, axial deviation of aryepiglottic folds (tissue spanning from the arytenoid to the epiglottis that collapses across the opening to the trachea), and epiglottic cysts. Tamzali said this system is easy and safe to operate with safety on any type of horse and during any performance activity, and its cost is reasonable.

"This new equipment is really a breakthrough in the field of sport medicine," he said. "It will allow any equine clinician to scope the horses at exercise from one day to another at the clients' place without delay and repeatedly, if necessary. It is expected also that some abnormalities occurring only in natural exercising conditions could be diagnosed with this technique. We have already identified some dynamic obstructions at maximum speed in gallopers. It is almost impossible to obtain this on a treadmill."

About the Author

Nancy S. Loving, DVM

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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