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Equine Practice
Ultrasonography of the equine abdomen: techniques and normal findings
  1. Sarah Freeman

    Sarah Freeman graduated from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in 1994. After a year working in mixed practice, she returned to the RVC where she developed an interest in equine colic. She completed an equine internship and a PhD in equine anaesthesia, before becoming a Home of Rest Clinical Training Scholar in Equine Surgery. In 1999, she was appointed a lecturer at the RVC in equine surgery. She holds the RCVS certificates in radiology, anaesthesia and equine surgery (soft tissue).


ABDOMINAL ultrasonography is increasingly used in veterinary medicine and has an important role in decision-making in horses with colic. The technique has been used predominantly in foals and smaller horses, where rectal palpation is not possible, but is also a valuable diagnostic aid in the adult horse. It enables the veterinary surgeon to image regions of the abdomen that are inaccessible to rectal palpation, such as the duodenum and stomach. It allows abnormal rectal findings to be confirmed and, in many cases, provides further information. For example, rectal palpation may detect distended loops of small intestine, but ultrasonography will determine the degree of distension, any thickening of the intestinal wall, and the presence or absence of motility. Based on this, features that distinguish between surgical and non-surgical lesions can be identified. This, the first of two articles discussing the use of ultrasonography in the equine acute abdomen, describes the techniques of abdominal ultrasonography, and normal ultrasonographic findings. The second article, to be published in the next issue, will describe ultrasonographic changes occurring in the colic patient.

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