Tips for Evaluating the Subfertile Mare

One veterinarian describes how to use endometrial culture, cytology, and biopsy to evaluate subbertile mares.

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If a mare isn’t getting pregnant after multiple breeding attempts to a stallion with good fertility, it is important to determine why. Reasons could be many, and veterinarians commonly use diagnostic techniques such as endometrial culture, cytology, and biopsy to pinpoint the cause. Karen Wolfsdorf, DVM, Dipl. ACT, of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, in Lexington, Kentucky, described how at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held December 3-7 in Orlando, Florida.

Investigative Tools

Wolfsdorf said culture involves determining if bacteria are present within the uterus, and if so, what kind and to what antibiotics they are sensitive. Cytology involves using a microscope to look at the individual cell types and substances the endometrium produces, and biopsy is the examination of the endometrial tissue as a whole.

Low-volume lavage is a useful way to get the most representative sample of what’s in the uterus, including cells, bacteria, mucus, and debris. During this process, the veterinarian flushes one liter of sterile solution into the uterus and then collects the fluid in a sterile container. After spinning the fluid in a centrifuge, he or she swabs cells from the remaining sediments that have sunk to the bottom, putting them on culture medium to grow bacteria and on slides for cytologic microscopic examination.

A biopsy of the endometrium is particularly important for predicting a mare’s likelihood of carrying a foal to term, and it helps the veterinarian identify underlying abnormalities not seen on culture, cytology, or ultrasound examination, said Wolfsdorf. The practitioner can take single or multiple samples from questionable areas and evaluate those details. He or she can examine endometrial tissue for inflammation, density and nesting of endometrial glands (when secretions get trapped in the base of the glands), fibrosis (scarring), and lymphatic and vascular (blood vessel) changes. By identifying these changes, the vet can begin appropriate management and treatment

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Written by:

Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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