A study has found the majority of sports horses that underwent veterinary surgery for colic were able to return to their intended use, compete postoperatively on a satisfactory level, and perform for several years after the operation.

Rolling horse.
Rolling is one of the classic signs of colic in horses. IMAGE: Fotolia/anjajuli.

The retrospective study, funded by Morris Animal Foundation, included 236 horses that had undergone ventral midline celiotomy at the University of Helsinki Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Equine Hospital, Finland during the 2006 to 2012 period.

Patients were followed either until their death or until the end of the study (30 November 2014).

Good recovery rates

The team found 82.6% (195 out of 236) recovered from anaesthesia and 74.9% (146/195) were discharged.

The total follow-up time, meanwhile, was 8 years and 10 months, with median survival time measuring at 79.2 months.

It was also found the following factors did not significantly affect the probability of performing in the previous or intended discipline after surgery:

  • age of the horse
  • location of the abdominal lesion (small vs. large intestine)
  • incidence of postoperative colic
  • surgical site infection
  • incisional hernia
  • convalescence time after surgery

A majority of the discharged horses (83.7%) were able to perform in the previous or intended discipline, while 78.5% regained their former or higher level of performance.


Operated horses had 0.18 colic episodes per horse-year during the long-term follow-up, with the incidence of colic being 20% within the first year after surgery.

Horses operated on for large intestinal colic, meanwhile, were found to be 3.3-fold more prone to suffer postoperative colic than horses operated for small intestinal colic.

Finally, in terms of owner opinion, it was found the majority (96.3%) were satisfied with the veterinary care received, with nearly all (98.5%) evaluating the recovery after the colic surgery to be satisfactory or above.

The article was published in the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica1.


  1. Immonen IA, Karikoski N, Mykkänen A et al (2017). Long-term follow-up on recovery, return to use and sporting activity: a retrospective study of 236 operated colic horses in Finland (2006–2012), Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 59(1):5.


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