Tilt Tables Help Horses Recover from Anesthetic

Horses undergoing high-risk orthopedic procedures, such as fracture repair of the long bones, can experience severe or catastrophic injuries while recovering from anesthesia. According to a recent report published in Veterinary Surgery, equine orthopedic patients recovered on a tilt table are more likely to have a smooth return to consciousness.

To use a tilt table, a horse recovering from anesthesia is restrained to the top of the table--which is generally hydraulic--in lateral recumbency (down and on his side). The table is slowly tilted upright as the horse returns to consciousness, so that he will be on his feet when he is completely conscious and ready to stand.

This study, performed by Antonio Cruz, DVM, MVM, MSc, DrMedVet, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, and colleagues from the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College in Canada, reviewed 54 high-risk orthopedic cases that employed the tilt table recovery system from 1994 to 2005. High-risk cases included horses undergoing fracture repairs, implant removals (plates and screws from previous surgeries), and cast changes.

"Of the 54 attempts to recover high-risk horses, successful recoveries were achieved in 47 (87%) cases," reported Cruz. "Further, 39 (83%) of the 47 successful recoveries were void of any complications such as superficial skin abrasions, cast breakage, or myositis (inflamed muscles)."

Of the seven horses that were not successfully recovered from anesthesia on the tilt table, one was euthanatized due to complete failure of the fracture repair, and six were transferred to a conventional recovery stall due to failure to adjust the table.

Other assisted-recovery systems, available at various surgical facilities throughout North America, include pool recovery systems, sling recovery systems, manual assistance, and modified flooring in the recovery stall that helps the horse get purchase as he tries to rise. According to Cruz, "To date, none of the available recovery methods are entirely risk-free."

Disadvantages of the tilt table recovery system include the extended time the horses required to recover, the increased number of trained staff required to perform the recovery compared to conventional recovery techniques, and the heightened labor intensity of the system.

The study, "Tilt table recovery of horses after orthopedic surgery: Fifty-four cases (1994-2005)" was published in April. Contributing authors were Elmas, DVM, Cruz, and Kerr, DVM, DVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVA.

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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