Intra-abdominal adhesions are akin to spot-welds that occur between segments of intestine (usually small intestine) and between intestine and abdominal organs.
In a normal healthy horse, the surfaces of the intestine are slick. They have an extremely smooth and moist surface that easily glides over adjacent surfaces. Inflammation within the abdomen or on these surfaces (from any cause) results in roughening of this surface.
Intestinal handling at colic surgery causes some irritation to the surface, even with good surgical technique. This is far more serious when intestine is handled roughly or improperly.
Any other cause of inflammation of the intestinal surface also has the potential to cause adhesions. The healing process in any case causes fibrin to be laid down that causes the creation of an adhesion to adjacent surfaces. In some cases, adhesions do not interfere with intestinal function. In other cases, they do.
Post-operative adhesions are said to occur in over 20% of colic cases. This is a significant cause of post-operative colic in patients whose primary problem was fixed at surgery. Adhesions may form 5-7 days after surgery and may cause signs of colic within 7-14 days. If adhesions are to cause problems post-operatively, this is usually evident by 4-8 weeks after surgery.
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Prognosis & Relevant Factors
The condition is far more common following surgery for small intestinal conditions than for large intestinal conditions. It commonly occurs following the extensive removal and reattachment of intestine (resection).
Prognosis for horses with recurrent colic from adhesions is guarded to poor.
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