Horses undergoing high-risk orthopedic procedures, such as fracture repair of the long bones, can experience severe or catastrophic injuries while recovering from anesthesia. According to a recent report published in Veterinary Surgery, equine orthopedic patients recovered on a tilt table are more likely to have a smooth return to consciousness.

To use a tilt table, a horse recovering from anesthesia is restrained to the top of the table–which is generally hydraulic–in lateral recumbency (down and on his side). The table is slowly tilted upright as the horse returns to consciousness, so that he will be on his feet when he is completely conscious and ready to stand.

This study, performed by Antonio Cruz, DVM, MVM, MSc, DrMedVet, Dipl. ACVS, ECVS, and colleagues from the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College in Canada, reviewed 54 high-risk orthopedic cases that employed the tilt table recovery system from 1994 to 2005. High-risk cases included horses undergoing fracture repairs, implant removals (plates and screws from previous surgeries), and cast changes.

"Of the 54 attempts to recover high-risk horses, successful recoveries were achieved in 47 (87%) cases," reported Cruz. "Further, 39 (83%) of the 47 successful recoveries were void of any complications such as superficial skin abrasions, cast breakage, or myositis (inflamed muscles)."

Of the seven horses that were not successfully recovered from anesthesia on the tilt table, one was euthanatized due to complete failure of the fracture repair, and six were transferred to a conventional recovery stall due to failure to adjust the tabl