LSU Equine Eye Surgery Sparks

The extraordinary efforts of globe-trotting surgeons, dedicated Louisiana State University (LSU) veterinarians and technicians, and a determined team of horse owners recently combined to preserve the sight of one 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare through a procedure known as a vitrectomy. The surgery is rarely performed and was unprecedented at Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine. The momentum of the team wouldn't end with a single horse, however.

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COURTESY LSU

Lexius (Lexi), is a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare whose sight was restored by the LSU Equine Health Studies program.

Through the generosity of owners Julie Calzone and Bob Gardes, both of Lafayette, La., the field of equine ophthalmology will see a difference at LSU for years to come. Following on the heels of an international team effort to help one horse, a new fund has been established within the LSU Foundation to bring focus to the wonders and intricacies of the care of the equine eye. The Lexi Fund, named for Julie and Bob's mare "Lexius," has been implemented to dedicate financial resources toward clinical service, scientific investigation and educational endeavors in the field of equine ophthalmology.

"The idea for the fund came to fruition over the past several months as Bob and I continually worked with LSU to find answers for Lexi's vision," said Calzone. "We have those answers now, and we felt like there were so many other horses out there that could benefit from the success of Lexi's story." Lexi came to LSU's Equine Hospital on September 22 to undergo surgery to correct her failing sight. Hartmut Gerhards, Dr.Med.Vet, with the Clinic for Horses of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, worked collaboratively with Eric Storey, DVM, MVSc, Dipl. ACVO, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, to perform the vitrectomy (whereby gel behind the lens and in front of the retina is removed and replaced with intravenous fluid) on Lexi's right eye. Assisting Gerhards was Bettina Wollanke, PD, Dr.Med.Vet, of Munich. Read about the surgery here.

"Both Bob and I feel very strongly that Lexi called all the shots including picking Dr. Storey and LSU," said Calzone. "We knew we were chosen to stand by her while she led the way for a new life and new eye sight, not only for herself but for other horses in North America. She is a very special horse, and we all are fortunate that she chose us. Needless to say, if it weren't for Dr. Storey and LSU none of this would have been possible." Through a perfectly choreographed surgery and now a permanent fund, Lexi is leading the way for all horses affected with ophthalmologic conditions.

To learn more or to contribute to The Lexi Fund, contact Ky Mortensen kmortensen@vetmed.lsu.edu at LSU's Equine Health Studies Program at 225/578-9590.

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