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Equine Health Resource

Diaphragmatic Hernia, Ruptured Diaphragm

This is a very rare condition in which there is rupture of the diaphragm, the muscular sheet that separates the thorax from the abdomen and is responsible for breathing. A break in the diaphragm allows the intestine to move forward and occupy the chest. The tear itself is painful, and the intestine moving out of position causes colic and difficulty breathing.

A tear of the diaphragm is most common after a traumatic injury, serious fall, or intense exercise like jumping. In addition, congenital diaphragmatic hernia occurs and can affect foals.

Diagnosis of this condition can be challenging, and is often only definitively established at surgery or postmortem.

Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


Higgins AJ, Snyder JR eds. The Equine Manual. 2nd Ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Saunders 2006.


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