A few years ago, a magazine article describing a minimally-invasive treatment for people with chronic sinusitis caught the eye and imagination of Chris Bell, DVM. What if such a treatment could be adapted for use in horses?

Last summer, the chance to test that theory came up for Bell when second-year veterinary student Dane Tatarniuk began working on a project to define the bony anatomy of the horse’s sinus.

“Dane was able to show through the anatomical dissections that there are two separate nasal maxillary openings–something that’s never been previously reported,” pointed out Bell, a large animal surgical resident at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and a research fellow with the College’s Equine Health Research Fund.

Out of that information emerged the development of a new, minimally invasive treatment for sinusitis–a common condition that can have an enormous impact on horses. “If it isn’t treated, it causes a chronic infection in the sinus which results in performance-limiting nasal discharge,” explained Bell. “It can actually deform the bone and affect all the soft tissues surrounding the sinus cavity.”

Primary sinusitis, caused by bacterial infection, has traditionally required surgery using general anesthetic. “We actually flap the bone back and then go in surgically and punch a hole down through the sinus to provide drainage and to flush it,” described Bell, adding that patients usually spend about five days in the clinic recovering from this invasive surgery.

Now, this new procedure will decrease the recovery time and minimize the effect on the animal–addressing key concerns for horse owners and veterinarians.

“The major advantage is that it’s minimally invasive and it can be done in the field. It’ll provide the ability for a practitioner to possibly treat sinusiti