Study: Most Horses Go Back to Work After Colic Surgery

In a long-term study, researchers showed that 92.5% of horses discharged had returned to work four to eight years after surgery.
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colic surgery
In a long-term study, researchers showed that 92.5% of horses discharged had returned to work four to eight years after surgery. | Photo: iStock
It wasn’t long ago that colic surgeries were viewed as a last resort to save affected horses. As veterinary technology and experience performing such procedures have advanced, so have the long-term survival rates of horses recovering from colic surgery. But while study results have revealed that overall survival rates have increased, only a handful of studies have followed a horse’s return to use and performance long-term following colic surgery.

To that end, Isa Immonen, DVM, and colleagues at the University of Helsinki, in Finland, recently studied the long-term prognosis and subsequent long-term use and complications of horses that survived colic surgery. The team reviewed the cases of 236 horses of different breeds and disciplines that had undergone surgery four to eight years ago.

Overall, Immonen found that survival and return to work rates among the general population of horses was consistent with similar previous studies. Most of the horses (82.6%; 195/236) recovered from anesthesia, and 74.9% (146/195) were discharged from the clinic. The team collected full follow-up data on 92.5% (135/146) of the discharged horses. Of those, the majority (83.7%, 113/135) returned to work in their previous or intended discipline and 78.5% (106/135) performed at their former or a higher level.

However, she was surprised by a few other findings

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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