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Equine Practice
Ultrasonography of the equine abdomen: findings in the colic patient
  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).


RAPID and accurate diagnosis will significantly improve the outcome in horses with acute abdominal pain. This is particularly true of surgical lesions, where swift intervention offers the best chance of survival. However, abdominal surgery is a major procedure in the horse, with a number of potentially severe complications. Therefore, an accurate prediction of the type of lesion and need for surgery is vital to reduce morbidity and mortality. Ultrasonography improves the accuracy of diagnosis in colic patients. In a large study of horses with acute abdominal pain, ultrasonography was more sensitive than rectal palpation in detecting lesions (Klohnen and others 1996); in animals with small intestinal lesions, abnormalities were identified in only 50 per cent of cases by rectal palpation, compared with 100 per cent of cases by ultrasonography. An article in the last issue discussed abdominal ultrasonographic techniques and normal findings in the horse (April 2002, pp 204-211). This article describes the findings in horses with acute gastrointestinal disease, and discusses the differentiation between surgical and non-surgical lesions.

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