Pretty as a Picture After 'Wry Nose' Surgery

Researchers from the United States and Sweden successfully collaborated to modify a surgical technique to correct wry nose (an abnormal nasal deviation) in the horse. The new technique necessitates only one operation and results in a positive functional and cosmetic outcome with few postoperative complications.

Wry nose is a birth defect, most commonly seen in Arabians, characterized by a shortening and deviation of the upper jaw and nose.

"In severely affected foals, the nose can deviate up to 90 degrees and is sometimes accompanied by other abnormalities, such as cleft palate. All or some of the teeth may fail to occlude and the tongue may protrude," explained co-author Jim Schumacher, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, MRCVS from the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Tennessee.

Together these abnormalities can limit a foal's ability to nurse and can cause respiratory difficulties.

Equine Center

A foal with wry nose.

According to Schumacher, horses with wry nose are not commonly treated because the operation is technically difficult, and it generally requires two separate surgeries performed two to three months apart.

"Our modified technique is advantageous because the foal is only anesthetized once," said Schumacher. (General anesthesia can be risky in horses.) In addition, more than just the deviated portion of the nasal septum was removed, making the procedure moderately more difficult than the previously reported technique, but more likely to result in an adequate airway.

Schumacher and colleagues performed the operation on four foals with wry nose between the ages of 5 months and 17 months. Each experienced a marked improvement in both respiratory stridor (noise caused by turbulent airflow in the upper respiratory tract) and appearance. Further, three of the four horses were able to participate in their intended athletic endeavors (dressage and jumping, racing, and pleasure riding) while the fourth horse had normal respiration while exercising on pasture.

Schumacher summarized, "Based on our findings, an owner of a horse affected with wry nose can expect a successful outcome after a single surgery."

The study, "Surgical correction of wry nose in four horses," was published in the February 2008 edition of Veterinary Surgery.

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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