New Technology for Wound Repair Follow-Up in Horses

New Technology for Wound Repair Follow-Up in Horses

Traumatic wounds, common in horses, are often challenging to suture because of heavy bacterial contamination or high skin tension, among other reasons.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Experienced owners know it well, and new owners learn it quick: Horses are accident-prone. Specifically, they're really good at finding things to cut themselves on. This often presents a challenge for those that care for them.

“Traumatic wounds are very common in horses and are often challenging to suture because of heavy bacterial contamination or high skin tension, among other reasons,” explained Lore Van Hecke, Mvetmed, from the Department of Surgery and Anaesthesiology of Domestic Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, in Belgium. "As such, many wounds horses sustained are left unsutured to heal by what is called ‘second intention’ healing. This is a process where the wound slowly contracts and fills in with scar tissue."

To ensure such wounds are on the right path to healing, veterinarians must monitor the wound size and healing process closely. Van Hecke and colleagues hypothesized that three-dimensional imaging methods could be useful for monitoring a wound's healing progression. However, such technologies can be challenging to use in horses because the procedure needs to be quick, and the devices cannot contact the wound (which could cause both pain and contamination).

There are currently several methods available for monitoring wounds, but there is a dearth of information supporting one over the other. So, Van Hecke and colleagues tested two of those technologies:

  • A digital photoplanimetry-based (DP) method that involves holding a digital camera perpendicular to the wound surface. This method involves a ruler in the camera's field of vision to measure wound area and circumference and a cotton swab to measure maximum depth. Then, the veterinarian can calculate the wound's volume.
  • A laser beam (LB) wound camera, which the veterinarian holds perpendicular to the wound to take a picture. After using three laser lines crossing in a star shape at the center of the wound, a software program generates a model of the wound and calculates the area, circumference, maximum depth, and volume once the operator delineates the wound boundaries.

The team used both the DP and LB cameras in 41 wounds and compared the measurements to a silicone wound cast. They determined that the DP camera had better accuracy and precision for measuring wound volume but the LB method was better able to determine wound area, maximum depth, and circumference; had better interoperator reliability (i.e., different people could use the equipment and get the same result); and was more user-friendly.

“The LB camera is the better objective method, despite its inferiority for measuring wound volume,” concluded Van Hecke. "That said, the DP method is less expensive and a valid alternative if measurements are performed by one operator on either cadavers or horses under general anesthetic."

The study, “Comparison of a new laser beam wound camera and a digital photoplanimetry-based method for wound measurement in horses,” will appear in an upcoming issue of the The Veterinary Journal

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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