A US colic study, published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ), has identified various risk factors, including delayed faecal output and increasing blood lactate, associated with post-anaesthetic colic.

Developed in partnership with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the information could enable vets to implement preventive measures to help reduce incidences of colic.

Gastrointestinal pain, generally referred to as colic, has been estimated to occur in 2.8-6% of horses following general anaesthesia for elective procedures, the most common cause being impaction of the large intestine or caecum.

The study – Risk factors associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction in horses undergoing elective procedures under general an anesthesia – was conducted by surgeons based at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, USA.

The medical records of 416 horses undergoing general anaesthesia were collected over a two-year period and the potential risk factors were examined.

A total of 8.7% of horses were diagnosed with gastrointestinal dysfunction – higher than previous estimates probably because the study included horses requiring treatment for decreased faecal output whereas previous studies did not.

Potential risk factors were assessed, including faecal output, which was decreased in 38.9% of cases, blood lactate, position during surgery, rectal temperature and breed of horse.

Editor of the EVJ Celia Marr said: “This study brings obvious and immediate practical benefits for clinicians and the horses under their care.”

“Rigorous monitoring of higher risk surgical cases should lead to a reduction in incidences of post-operative colic, making recovery procedures less difficult and outcomes more favourable.”

The study can be accessed at:

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