Researchers Compare Strangulating Intestinal Lesions

Researchers Compare Strangulating Intestinal Lesions

The team determined that both groups of horses had similar postoperative complication rates.

Photo: Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM

When a colicking horse arrives at a referral hospital for treatment, attending clinicians immediately begin making notes on the case that could help them identify the inciting cause. For instance, based on what veterinarians know about risk factors for different types of colic, a big 15-year-old gelding that cribs is a prime candidate for having an epiploic foramen entrapment, or EFE.

But clinical presentations (physical signs or symptoms) of some conditions resemble others, complicating diagnosis. Such is the case with EFE and another similar type of colic—gastrosplenic ligament entrapment (or GLE)—so researchers recently conducted a study in which they compared the two, to find ways to tell them apart during diagnostic workup and to know more about GLE outcomes. Isabelle Kilcoyne, MVB, Dipl. ACVS, described what they learned the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas. Kilcoyne is an equine surgeon at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), School of Veterinary Medicine.

A horse suffers an EFE when a section of small intestine gets trapped in the epiploic foramen, a narrow opening in the cranial (forward part of the) abdomen bordered by part of the liver, pancreas, and portal vein. The GLE occurs when part of the small intestine becomes trapped in a tear in the gastrosplenic ligament, which extends from the spleen to the stomach. Veterinarians can garner information about both conditions using abdominal ultrasound prior to taking a horse to surgery.

Kilcoyne said researchers know that EFE is the second most common strangulating small intestinal lesion behind strangulating lipomas (fatty tumors) and that geldings, middle-aged horses, large-breed horses, and horses with a history of colic, stall rest, and cribbing are most likely to be affected. However, she said, “few studies regarding the prevalence, predisposing factors, and clinical findings of horses presenting with entrapment of the small intestine within the gastrosplenic ligament have been reported.”

She and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of colic cases treated at UC Davis from 1994 to 2012, including horses with a definitive diagnosis of GLE (43 horses) or EFE (73 horses). While the colic types had similar clinical presentations, horses with EFE appeared to be more systemically compromised (in worse condition). Geldings were over-represented in both groups, reinforcing the known risk factors for EFE and indicating it could be a risk factor for GLE, as well.

“Overall, ultrasound can provide substantial diagnostic information about both conditions,” Kilcoyne said. “Both groups had similar postoperative complication rates. Ultimately, there are similar favorable short-term survival rates (survival to discharge) for GLE and EFE if appropriate surgical intervention is performed.”

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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