Study: Permanently Avoiding Colic Impossible in Some Horses

Study: Permanently Avoiding Colic Impossible in Some Horses

"This is the first documented incidence of renosplenic entrapment after RSA, which proves that this may not always be a lasting solution as is widely accepted, at least when performed in very young animals," Hendrickson said.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

According to Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, "There is nothing permanent except change." What he failed to add was, "especially when it comes to colicky horses."

Up to 6% of all colic cases are caused by renosplenic entrapment, which occurs when the large intestine slips up and over the ligament between the left kidney and spleen. Renosplenic entrapment usually causes only mild signs of colic; nonetheless, the intestine needs to be returned to its normal position.

"The most common methods of treating renosplenic entrapments are phenylephrine injection, rolling, or abdominal surgery," explained Dean Hendrickson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, an equine surgeon and professor at Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Even with treatment, 3-7% of successfully treated horses can suffer repeat episodes of renosplenic entrapment.

"There are a number of methods to avoid recurrence such as sewing the large intestine to the body wall, removing a large section of the large intestine, or ablating the space between the kidney and spleen," Hendrickson explained. One presumably permanent treatment used to avoid recurrent renosplenic entrapment is "renosplenic space ablation" (RSA, a type of surgery designed to prevent the displacement of the large intestine).

In 2002 Hendrickson and colleagues treated a 7-month-old colt with renosplenic entrapment. They performed an RSA; however, seven years later the horse was diagnosed with another renosplenic entrapment. Surgeons resolved the entrapment and performed a second so-called "permanent" RSA. Three years later, in 2010, the horse colicked again and had a section of his large colon removed. According to Hendrickson, the ablation was intact at that time, but the horse's colon continued to move, just not into the renosplenic space.

"The two most interesting parts of this horse's history was his predilection for colic and the fact that the RSA failed," noted Hendrickson. "This is the first documented incidence of renosplenic entrapment after RSA, which proves that this may not always be a lasting solution as is widely accepted, at least when performed in very young animals."

The study, "Recurrence of renosplenic entrapment after renosplenic space ablation in a seven-year-old stallion," was published in the Aug. 15, 2011, edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The abstract is available on PubMed.

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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