Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Small Intestinal Strangulating Conditions

The small intestine is 50-70 feet long on average and about 2-3″ diameter. The equine small intestine can twist upon itself, slip through holes in the mesentery (sheet of tissue that holds the intestine) and essentially find almost infinite ways to strangle itself.

There is a great variety of specific small intestinal strangulating lesions seen in horses, some more common in specific types and groups than others. Of these, only conditions that I felt deserved their own titles are strangulating pedunculated lipoma and Epiploic Foramen Entrapment (related diagnoses).

These conditions appear very similar to one another on veterinary examination. There is small intestinal distention on rectal exam and ultrasound, there is usually rapid worsening of the appearance and laboratory values of belly tap fluid (abdominocentesis). These are all emergency surgical cases and many require that a part of the affected intestine be removed.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

Prognosis is fair to poor. Prognosis depends upon the specific condition, and particularly how much intestine is damaged and needs to be removed surgically.

There are many other factors which play a role in prognosis. These are some of the most difficult colic surgical cases. Horses tend to have a variety of short and long-term complications including laminitis and intestinal adhesions causing recurrent colic in the future.

Many questions cannot be answered until the abdomen is opened and examined. Prognosis also depends on the general health of the horse prior to and at surgery. High quality veterinary care prior to surgery, at surgery, and after surgery are all are critical to a good outcome.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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