Objective—To determine whether heavy (≥ 680 kg [≥ 1,500 lb]) draft horses undergoing surgical treatment for acute signs of abdominal pain were at a greater risk for anesthetic and postoperative complications and lower postoperative survival rates than light (< 680 kg) draft horses.
Design—Retrospective case series.
Animals—72 draft horses.
Procedures—Medical records of draft horses that underwent exploratory celiotomy for signs of acute abdominal pain from October 1983 to December 2002 were reviewed. Medical records of draft horses in which a celiotomy was performed for correction of reproductive abnormalities were not included in the study.
Results—When compared with light draft horses, heavy draft horses had longer durations of anesthesia, more postoperative complications, and lower survival rates. Seventy-six percent of horses that recovered from anesthesia had postoperative complications. Postoperative complications associated with low survival rates included myopathy and neuropathy, ileus, diarrhea, and endotoxemia. All horses with postoperative myopathy and neuropathy died or were euthanized. The short-term survival rate for horses that recovered from anesthesia was 60%. Horses undergoing small intestinal surgery had a worse prognosis for short-term survival than those undergoing large intestinal surgery. The survival rate for horses for which long-term (> 1 year) follow-up information was available was 50%.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Draft horses weighing > 680 kg that underwent surgery because of acute signs of abdominal pain had longer durations of anesthesia, more postoperative complications, and higher mortality rates than draft horses weighing < 680 kg.