Laparoscopic ovariectomy
Horse owners might want to have their mares’ ovaries surgically removed (via a process called an ovariectomy) for a variety of reasons: to prevent pregnancy, get rid of tumors, or, most commonly, resolve behavioral issues.

While surgeons still consider traditional ovariectomy methods effective, they’ve come to favor several newer procedures that are easier on the horse as well as the owner’s pocketbook. Dean Hendrickson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, reviewed those options at the 2017 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 17-21 in San Antonio, Texas. Hendrickson is a professor of equine surgery at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“We find that more and more clients are requesting ovariectomies in order to not have to deal with cycle-related behavior issues,” he said. “It’s generally less expensive in the long run than hormone administration, but it’s not reversible.”

Traditional ovariectomy methods can cost owners $2,500 to $3,000 and include a standing colpotomy (performed through the vagina), recumbent (while lying down) flank ovariectomy, and dorsally (while lying on the back) recumbent midline ovariectomy (performed through the abdominal wall).

“Although these techniques have been commonly used, they are rapidly being replaced by minimally invasive techniques such as standing-flank, laterally recumbent (lying on one side), or dorsally recumbent laparoscopic ovariectomies,” said Hendrickson.

Laparoscopic ovariectomy
Laparoscopy involves inserting an endoscope and surgical instruments through one or more small incisions, and veterinarians can use it to perform a standing ovariectomy without general anesthesia. Hendrickson described the three laparoscopic techniques used to remove mares’ ovaries:

Standing-flank laparoscopic ovariectomy Hendrickson said this is his preferred technique, performed through one or both flanks in the standing sedated mare. The surgeons at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital do 20-30 of these procedures a year.

“In my opinion, standing laparoscopic ovariectomy is easier to perform than while under general anesthesia, given that the ovary hangs from the dorsal body wall,” he said.

The surgery costs about $1,500, including a two-night hospital stay, and horses can be brought back into work after two weeks of stall rest and hand-walking.

Laterally recumbent laparoscopic ovariectomy This procedure is only practical for removing one ovary and is performed under general anesthesia. It costs about $2,000, and mares can start back in light work after four weeks of stall rest.

Hendrickson said that he and his colleagues rarely use this method anymore, however, because in most cases the procedure can be performed standing.

Dorsally recumbent laparoscopic ovariectomy This procedure is also performed under general anesthesia, with the horse hoisted upside down in a Trendelenburg position (on a tilted table with the pelvis raised higher than the head). It also costs $2,000 and involves four weeks of stall rest. Hendrickson said he rarely uses this method anymore, either.

“Laparoscopy is a beautiful thing,” said Hendrickson, adding that while it requires very specialized equipment, the training to use it is reasonable.

“In general, clients and trainers are very satisfied after laparoscopic ovariectomy for behavioral reasons,” he said.