The small intestine is 70 feet long. Most of the conditions that affect it cause colic strangulation. Simple obstruction is possible, though and it usually occurs in the ileum. The ileum is the final segment of the small intestine. It is a thickened muscular tube about 3 feet long that empties through a valve into the cecum.
This is a site for several conditions that cause blockage of the small intestine. Certain tapeworm species attach here and physically can block passage of feed. They also may cause irritation and thickening of the ileum which may cause feed impaction.
Ileal hypertrophy is a condition in which the walls become over-thickened from several possible causes, causing blockage.
Ileal impaction is more commonly seen in horses that are fed Bermuda Grass hay. It is also regional, being more common in Europe and the Southeastern United States.
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Prognosis & Relevant Factors
Some cases of simple ileal impaction respond to medical treatment with intravenous fluids and intensive care and decompression of the fluid buildup on the stomach by repeatedly siphoning fluid off (refluxing).
Many cases of ileal blockage, however, will require surgery. The prognosis with surgery is usually good, but predisposing factors must be addressed to prevent recurrence. In cases of ileal hypertrophy or more complicated blockage, bypass operations may need to be performed, which are costly and tend to have a poorer prognosis.
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Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health