Has your horse ever suffered from equine colic? This disorder of the digestive system is quite common today. When you take your colicking horse for treatment in a referral hospital, the first thing that the clinician does is take notes on what could be the cause of the colic. For instance, if your big 15-year-old gelding is cribbing, epiploic foramen entrapment (EFE) is the first thing that might come to a vet’s mind.
Disorders that have similar symptoms do complicate diagnosis oftentimes. For instance, symptoms overlap between EFE and another kind of colic that resembles it, known as gastrosplenic ligament entrapment (GLE). It is for this reason that equine health researchers recently conducted extensive research to compare the two common types of colics and help distinguish them from each other to ease diagnosis and treatment.
During the last annual American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada last December, attendees learned about these disorders. Isabelle Kilcoyne, MVB, Dipl. ACVS, who is a horse surgeon at the University of California, Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, highlighted some of this information.
While EFE is caused by a section of the small intestine getting trapped in the epiploic foramen (a narrow opening located in the cranial/forward part of the abdomen, bordering part of the liver, portal vein and the pancreas), GLE results from a similar entrapment of the small intestine in a tear of the gastrosplenic ligament (an extension connecting the spleen and the stomach). During vet diagnosis, information about both conditions can be gathered via abdominal ultrasound before a horse is referred to a surgeon.
According to Kilcoyne, only strangulating lipomas (fatty tumors) precede EFE when it comes to the most common strangulating lesions of the small intestine. In this regard, geldings, middle-aged equines, large-breed horses and those with a history of suffering from colic, stall rest or cribbing are at risk of being mostly affected. However, Kilcoyne also notes that only little research has been done on the predisposing factors or the prevalence of GLE.
Kilcoyne and colleagues recently conducted a retrospective research study on equine colic cases treated between 1994 and 2012 at her university, 43 horses for GLE and 73 horses for EFE. Though the two kinds of colic had similar clinical presentations, horses suffering from EFE appeared to be in worse condition. Also, geldings were over-represented in both sets of horses, thus reinforcing the already known risk factors for EFE, an indication that it could be a key risk factor for GLE as well.
Kilcoyne concluded by advising equine owners to take advantage of overall ultrasound diagnosis since it is capable of providing crucial diagnostic information about both EFE and GLE. In the study at UC-Davis, both horse groups had similar post-operative complication rates. Ultimately, similar favorable but short-term survival rates -- survival to discharge -- for both EFE and GLE can be achieved if the appropriate surgical intervention is carried out on time.
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