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Equine Health Resource

Small Intestinal Strangulation, Pedunculated Lipoma

The equine small intestine is approximately 50-70 feet long and connects the stomach to the first part of the large intestine (cecum). In healthy horses, the intestinal lining secretes a massive amount of electrolyte rich fluid that aids digestion. This fluid is taken back up by the large colon and cecum downstream.

A common cause of small intestinal strangulation is strangulating lipomas, which are benign fatty growths on the tissue that supports the intestine (the mesentery) that are often attached by a rope-like stalk (peduncle). The stalk becomes looped over and tightens on a segment of intestine. The intestine becomes choked off, rapidly fills with fluid, loses its blood supply and eventually dies. The abnormal, fluid filled loops of intestine are detectable on a thorough veterinary exam.

Prompt diagnosis and a decision about surgical intervention is required. In some cases, recently strangled intestine may be saved. However, dead or severely damaged intestine (sometimes longer than 30 feet plus in length) must be removed and the intestine resected. Recovery from these major small intestinal resections is usually difficult. These operations are among the most challenging and expensive abdominal operations that equine surgeons perform.

This condition is much more common in older horses. Horses that are overweight probably have a higher incidence of strangulation by a lipoma.


  • Why do you think the horse has a small intestinal strangulation?
  • With surgery, what is the prognosis?
  • How sure are you about the diagnosis?
  • Are there other diagnostics that would make you more certain?
  • What is the cost of surgery?
  • What is the likelihood of recurrence after a successful surgery?

    All factors that reduce colic in general should help reduce the likelihood of intestinal accident but there are still no guarantees. There are questions about whether obesity contributes to the formation of pedunculated lipoma. Certainly genetics does play a role.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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