How old it too old for colic surgery?
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Veterinarians from Penn Vet's New Bolton Center have made some surprising discoveries concerning older horses and colic surgery.
[May 26, 2010; Kennett Square, PA] – Just like their human counterparts, horses are living longer. Advances in equine health care and nutrition mean that they are also able to have active, useful lives well into their advanced years. With the increase in longevity comes an increase in the opportunity for colic. Veterinarians at the New Bolton Center studied the responses of mature and aged patients presented at the hospital with symptoms of colic and treated surgically for the condition. The goal of the research study was to give owners more accurate information on the likelihood of survival and complications that they might encounter with older horses following colic surgery. New Bolton Center is part of University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
For the purposes of the project survival rates and post-operative complications of colic patients were studied retrospectively. The sample included 300 geriatric horses, defined as 16-20 years of age, and 300 mature horses, four-15 years old, admitted to New Bolton Center’s George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals in Kennett Square, PA.
“Gastrointestinal tract problems and signs of colic are among the most common reasons for admission of geriatric horses to referral hospitals,” says Louise Southwood PhD, assistant professor of emergency medicine and critical care at New Bolton Center. Southwood, who is board certified in surgery as well as emergency and critical care, led the study. “Owners are often concerned that performing surgery on their geriatric horses might not be in the best interest of the horse. We wanted to be able to give them the information with which to make an informed decision.”
While the geriatric horses seemed no more critically ill than their mature counterparts, the odds that their colic was caused by a strangulating small intestinal lesion, a condition which requires surgery, were twice that of the mature horses. What surprised the research team was that the difference in the survival rates between geriatric and mature horses that underwent such surgery was negligible, 86% to 83%. Similarly the short-term survival rates for geriatric and mature horses with large intestinal strangulating lesions such as a twisted colon was 78% and 70%, and large intestinal simple obstruction, such as a an impaction or displacement, was 80% and 97% respectively. These figures reflect pre-discharge data only. The numbers didn’t change significantly if the horses classified as geriatric were 16 years or 20 years of age. Researchers did note, however, that the geriatric horses were more likely to have a short period of loss of appetite following surgery.
“The results of this study are important for horse owners,” says Southwood, “because they can help owners make a decision regarding whether or not to undergo surgery.” The same team of researchers plans to look at the long-term survival of horses in the 20-25 year old category in the future. The research study has just been published on-line by the Equine Veterinary Journal.
Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine is one of the world's premier veterinary schools. Founded in 1884, the School was built on the concept of Many Species, One Medicine. The birthplace of veterinary specialties, the School serves a distinctly diverse array of animal patients, from pets to horses to farm animals at our two campuses. In Philadelphia, on Penn's campus, are the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital for companion animals, as well as classrooms, laboratories and the School's administrative offices. The large-animal facility, New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square, Pa., encompasses hospital facilities for the care of horses and food animals as well as diagnostic laboratories serving the agriculture industry. The School has successfully integrated scholarship and scientific discovery with all aspects of veterinary medical education.
Visit us on-line at www.vet.upenn.edu