Colic Surgery Closures: Sutures or Staples? (AAEP 2010)

Customarily, veterinarians close the intestinal wall following colic surgery in horses using either sutures or staples. But which is best? According to Julie Rosser, DVM, it's a tie: Staples are just as effective as the traditional method of hand-sewing the intestine closed with suture material in one common colic surgery procedure.

"Incising into the intestines at the part of the gastrointestinal tract called the pelvic flexure is a fairly routine procedure performed during exploratory surgeries in colicky horses," said Rosser, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who presented a retrospective study on the subject at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md. "Traditionally, surgeons sewed the intestinal incision closed in two layers using an absorbable suture material."

Over the past few decades, surgical staplers have become increasingly popular because they make a surgeon's job easier and decrease tissue trauma and surgery time. Despite the fact that they've been embraced by veterinary surgeons worldwide, their efficacy for closing the equine pelvic flexure had not been studied.

Rosser reviewed the medical records of 84 horses who underwent a pelvic flexure enterotomy (i.e., their intestines were incised). Surgeons had stapled closed 70 horses' intestinal incisions and sutured the remaining 14.

Key findings included:

  • Both groups of horses had similar rates of postoperative complications; and
  • In total, 77 of the 84 horses survived to discharge from the hospital. There was no difference in survival rates between the staple and the suture groups.

"Stapling closed the pelvic flexure during colic surgery is as safe as hand-sewing the intestine closed," concluded Rosser.

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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