Colic Diagnosis Using FLASH

Colic Diagnosis Using FLASH

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

A simple diagnostic tool can help equine emergency care professionals quickly diagnose colics, leading to improved pain management and more immediate surgery when indicated, according to a Belgian study.

Fast Localized Abdominal Sonography (called "FLASH" in horses), already in use in human healthcare, benefits from the pinpointing of specific target areas to be investigated for abnormalities, according to Valeria Busoni, PhD, Dipl. ECVDI, imaging clinician in the department of clinical sciences of companion animals and equids in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Liége, and primary author of the recently published study. In equine colic, these target areas include seven specific abdominal sites, tested in Busoni's research, where the practitioner can check for free fluid and/or dilated, turgid loops of the small intestine.

It took less than 11 minutes, on average, to complete FLASH exams on equine colic patients in the study. The practitioners performing the exams had received only an hour of training in the technique, the researchers reported.

FLASH for colic

Ultrasound image obtained via FLASH, showing turgid small intestinal loops without wall thickening in a horse with small intestinal obstruction.

"FLASH gives the vets a protocol to follow in colic emergency cases to rapidly scan very specific areas of the abdomen," Busoni said. An added benefit is that clipping is not necessary because hair does not significantly slow down the process. Hair will slow down complete abdominal ultrasounds when alcohol is used.

The target areas in FLASH were defined as the ventral abdomen, the gastric window, the spleno-renal window, the left middle third of the abdomen, the duodenal window, the right middle third of the abdomen, and the thoracic window, the study reported.

"The target areas we proposed worked surprisingly well," Busoni said. "The practitioners (in the study) easily found what they were supposed to evaluate, and the abnormalities seen were good indicators of the kind of colic. That's good news because those are the main things that make the exam faster than a complete abdominal ultrasound."

Even so, all diagnoses of colic should be based on other clinical data, including paracentesis and a rectal exam, in addition to FLASH, she said. Negative FLASH exams in horses showing ongoing abdominal pain should be complemented by a full abdominal ultrasound.

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.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners