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Hemoperitoneum in horses: 67 cases (1989–2004)

Julie E. Dechant DVM, MS, DACVS1, Jorge E. Nieto MVZ, PhD, DACVS2, and Sarah S. Le Jeune DVM, DACVS3
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  • 1 Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 2 Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 3 Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate clinical findings, underlying causes, and short-term outcome associated with hemoperitoneum in horses.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—67 horses with hemoperitoneum.

Procedures—Medical records of horses with hemo-peritoneum (excluding postoperative abdominal hemorrhage) from 1989 through 2004 were analyzed. Information obtained included history, signalment, physical examination findings, diagnostic test results, and short-term outcome.

Results—Breed distribution was 28 Thoroughbreds, 13 Arabians, 10 Quarter Horses, 5 Warmbloods, 3 Appaloosas, and 1 each of 8 other breeds. There were 40 mares, 23 geldings, and 4 stallions. Median age was 12 years (range, 1 month to 40 years). Signs of abdominal discomfort were the primary complaint in 79% of horses. Clinical findings included shock (60%) and pale mucous membranes (60%). Median heart rate was 76 beats/min (range, 30 to 216 beats/min), median respiratory rate was 30 breaths/min (range, 8 to 92 breaths/min), median Hct was 31% (range, 10.5% to 73.0%), and total protein concentration was 5.8 g/dL (range, 3.3 to 8.7 g/dL). Cause of hemoperitoneum was attributed to trauma (25.4%), neoplasia (17.9%), uterine artery rupture (13.4%), mesenteric injury (11.9%), disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (6.0%), other causes (3.0%), and idiopathic causes (22.4%). Fifty-one percent of horses survived to hospital discharge, 37% were euthanized, and 12% died. Poor short-term outcome was significantly associated with high respiratory rate and certain underlying causes.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Hemoperitoneum is an infrequent but important cause of abdominal discomfort in horses. Predominant underlying causes were trauma, neoplasia, and idiopathic causes. Identification of underlying cause is important because of its association with outcome.

Contributor Notes

Presented in part as an abstract at the 11th International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium, Atlanta, September 2005.

Address correspondence to Dr. Dechant.