Editor’s note: This article is part of TheHorse.com’s ongoing coverage of topics presented at the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30 – June 2 in New Orleans, La.

There are several methods by which to treat equine pleuropneumonia (pleuritits) and associated pleural abscesses, but when all else fails surgical options might be required. At a recent veterinary conference, one researcher discussed a procedure called thoracotomy (an incision into the pleural space of the chest) for treating recurrent pleural abscesses.

At the 2012 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held May 30-June 2 in New Orleans, La., Keith Chaffin, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor of equine internal medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, discussed indications for thoracotomies and the outcomes of several thoracotomy procedures.

Background: Pleuropneumonia and Pleural Abscesses

Pleuropneumonia–inflammation both within the lung and within the pleural cavity–is a relatively common disorder in horses that often results in thoracic abscesses, Chaffin explained. Pleuropneumonia risk factors include:

  • Long-distance transportation;
  • Intense exercise;
  • Viral infections;
  • Upper airway dysfunction;
  • Recent general anesthesia;
  • Choke; and
  • Aspiration.

Chaffin said clinical signs of disease development include:

  • Fever;
  • Lethargy;
  • Anorexia;
  • Cough;
  • Increased heart and/or respiratory rate;