Could SAA, Fibrinogen Predict Colic Surgery Complications?

If levels continue to increase for more than three to four days post-surgery, complications could be brewing.
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Colic Surgery Complications
Researchers found that if these inflammatory markers continue to increase for longer than three to four days post-surgery, complications could be brewing. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
Colic surgery is meant to help horses in distress, but complications following the procedure—such as incisional infections, postoperative ileus (lack of gut motility), or thrombophlebitis (blood vessel inflammation and blockage)—can put the patient back into a precarious, even life-threatening, position. Treating complications early can help improve outcomes, but it’s not always easy to tell which horses are most at risk for developing problems.

At the 2017 International Equine Colic Research Symposium, held July 18-20 in Lexington, Kentucky, Michael De Cozar, BSc(Hons), BVetMed, MRCVS, shared the results of a study in which he and colleagues evaluated whether two easily measurable biomarkers in horses’ blood—serum amyloid A (SAA) and plasma fibrinogen concentrations—could help predict colic surgery complications. De Cozar is a surgery resident at Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic, in Kent, England.

Serum amyloid A is a protein produced in response to an inflammatory insult. Importantly for veterinarians, its concentrations increases and decreases rapidly, allowing them real-time information on inflammation via a blood test. Fibrinogen is also an inflammatory marker, but doesn’t change quite as quickly as SAA.

In their prospective study, the researchers measured SAA and fibrinogen concentrations in horses undergoing exploratory laparotomy or celiotomy (abdominal surgery) at admission and again every 24 hours for five days following surgery

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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