Researchers Create Equine Jugular Vein Injection Simulator

Researchers Create Equine Jugular Vein Injection Simulator

German researchers have presented a jugular vein injection simulator designed to help promote equine welfare while helping veterinary students master injection skills before working with a live horse.

Photo: Courtesy Uta Delling, DrMedVet., MS, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS

Veterinary school is going high-tech. First, we showed you the simulator designed to help veterinary students learn where to place the needle when administering joint injections. Now, German researchers have presented a jugular vein injection simulator designed to help promote equine welfare while helping veterinary students master injection skills before working with a live horse.

Using a life-size, lifelike model of a horse head and neck with “blood” running through one of its jugular veins, veterinary students can now practice jugular vein puncture repeatedly without causing pain to a living horse, said Uta Delling, DrMedVet., MS, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, associate surgeon at the University of Leipzig's Large Animal Clinic for Surgery.

“Until now, veterinary students have had to practice jugular vein injection on living horses starting with the very first try,” Delling said. It isn't possible to practice injecting jugular veins on cadavers because the veins have no blood and are therefore deflated.

“The horses wiggle and jump; it hurts a little bit,” she said. “Some of the horses are very patient and will stand still through several trials. But after a while even the quietest ones won’t tolerate it anymore.”

Practicing with live horses has become an increasingly more significant welfare issue as fewer horses are available to veterinary hospitals, said Delling. In some parts of Europe, as many as 14 to 15 students might need to practice on a single horse.

But getting jugular vein injections right is very important, she said, as many common veterinary medicines are injected into the jugular vein. If the veterinarian misses the vein and injects the medicine into the surrounding tissue, it can create a “really nasty inflammation,” Delling said.

Jugular vein puncture is also used to draw blood for analyses and for administering sedatives and euthanasia drugs. With euthanasia in particular, a veterinarian’s injection skills are especially important. “It’s very important to really hit the vein, because if you inject it in the muscle, it’s really not a nice death,” she said.

Inaccurate aim can also cause the vein to occlude (meaning it develops a clot) which is sometimes associated with inflammation of the vein's wall, she said. Certain types of inflammation require surgical correction, and in some cases a vein can remain permanently occluded, leaving the horse with only one usable jugular vein for therapy.

The Leipzig simulator features 3-cm-diameter tubing—about the size of a real jugular vein—that has a transparent liquid running through it to simulate blood. If the students inject the vein correctly, the "blood" will flow through the needle.

Photo Courtesy Uta Delling, DrMedVet., MS, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS

The Leipzig simulator features 3-cm-diameter tubing—about the size of a real jugular vein—that has a transparent liquid running through it to simulate blood. If the students inject the vein correctly, the "blood" will flow through the needle. The tubing has a special design that allows it to be pierced hundreds of times without leaking. When it does finally start to leak, the tubing can be replaced without having to replace the entire model.

Although red liquid would have been more realistic, Delling said they chose to use transparent fluid so as not to stain the model after the repeated uses.

Artist and study co-author Antje Schlenker, visual arts graduate, also of Lepzig University, spent about a year designing and perfecting the model, Delling said. This pioneer project cost the group several thousand euros, she said. But future models would probably cost less—perhaps €2,000 to €3,000 (about $4,000)—now that the model has been designed.

Schlenker’s website shows a photographic journal of the simulator's design.

The study, "Evaluation of a training model to teach veterinary students a technique for injecting the jugular vein in horses," was published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education's fall edition.

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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