In the first multi-institutional study of its kind, researchers recently reported that eye enucleation (surgical removal of the eye and associated structures) with the horse standing and sedated is safer and more economical than the traditional method of enucleation in fully anesthetized horses, and it's equally effective.

Veterinarians typically perform enucleation because of severe ocular trauma or infection, tumors of the eye, and various other inflammatory or degenerative conditions that threaten the health and well-being of affected horses.

According to lead author Patrick Pollock, BVMS, Cert. ES, Dipl. ECVS, a board certified surgeon from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, enucleations have traditionally been performed in horses that are fully anesthetized and lying on their sides.

A multitude of problems are inherent with this approach, including unanticipated eye movements during the procedure, low blood pressure, cardiac dysrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or cardiac arrest, and difficult or prolonged recoveries. The latter situations are risks inherent to any surgery performed under general anesthesia.


"These results demonstrate that an eye can be safely and humanely removed without having to anesthetize the patient making it a safer, more economical approach." --Dr. Patrick Pollock

"While standing enucleations have previously been reported, this is the first large-scale study to critically evaluate the procedure in horses," explained Pollock.

Between 2003 and 2007, veterinarians performed unilateral standing enucleations on 40 horses admitted to three referral hospitals. All 40 eyes were successfully enucleated with a limited number of short-term complications (such as swelling). No long-term complications were reported.

"These results demonstrate that an eye can be safely and humanely removed without having to anesthetize the patient making it a safer, more economical approach," said Pollock.

The same group of authors have also recently described the repair of certain fractures, guttural pouch surgery, and the treatment of kissing spines in the standing, sedated horse.

Pollock suggested, "Standing techniques are likely to become more widespread for a variety of surgical procedures, reducing the risks of surgery, and further improving the welfare of horses."

The study, "Transpalpebral eye enucleation in 40 standing horses," was published in the March edition of Veterinary Surgery. Contributing authors were Pollock; Russell, BVMS, Dipl. ECVS; Hughes, MA, VetMB, Cert. ES; Archer, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVS, and; Perkins, BVetMed, MS, Cert. ES, Dipl. ECVS.

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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