Cause for optimism around colic surgery

New research shows that colic surgery results in overwhelmingly positive outcomes for both horses and owners.

Colic, defined as abdominal pain, affects between four and 10 per cent of horses during their lifetime. It is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition.

In a study published recently in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, researchers looked at the long-term outcomes of 236 horses undergoing surgery for colic between 2006 and 2012, focusing on owner satisfaction and patient performance after surgery.

The team found that, of the horses that survived to hospital discharge, 83.7 per cent returned to their previous or intended activity, and 78.5 per cent regained their pre-surgical or a higher level of performance.

They also found a high level of owners were satisfied with their veterinary care and that nearly all evaluated the recovery after the colic surgery as satisfactory or above.

“Many horses encounter colic at some point of their life and, fortunately, many of the episodes can be treated conservatively with medication and fluids,” said Dr Isa Immonen from the University of Helsinki, Finland, and one of the paper’s authors.

“Sometimes, however, the horse requires surgical treatment, which is expensive and a major operation for the horse. This may be a difficult life-and-death decision for the owner.”

Dr Immonen added: “We felt that defining the factors affecting the prognosis and postoperative performance could give answers that would help both the owners and the veterinarians in the decision-making process— whether to operate or not—especially when focusing on the meaningful long-term life and use of the horse after colic surgery.”

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