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Colic in equine neonates: 137 cases (2000–2010)

Melissa C. MacKinnon DVM, DACVS1, Louise L. Southwood BVSC, PhD, DACVS, DACVECC2, Megan J. Burke DVM3, and Jonathan E. Palmer VMD, DACVIM4
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania, Kennett Square, PA 19348.

Abstract

Objective—To document causes of colic in equine neonates, evaluate clinical features of neonates managed medically versus surgically, determine short- and long-term survival rates for neonates with specific medical and surgical lesions, and assess ability of patients to achieve intended use.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—137 client-owned equine neonates (< 30 days old) with a history of colic or signs of colic within 1 hour after hospital admission examined between 2000 and 2010.

Procedures—Signalment, history, results of physical examination, laboratory data, ancillary diagnostic tests, details of treatment, primary diagnosis, concurrent diseases and short-term survival rate were obtained from the medical records. Long-term follow-up information was obtained through phone survey.

Results—137 neonates with colic were included. The majority (122 [89%]) of neonates were managed medically. The 3 most common diagnoses associated with colic were enterocolitis (37 [27%]), meconium-associated colic (27 [20%]), and transient medical colic (26 [19%]). The most common reason for surgery was small intestinal strangulating obstruction, and these neonates were more likely to have severe, continuous pain and were less responsive to analgesics. Concurrent diseases were common (87 [64%]) but did not significantly impact survival rate. Short-term survival rate was not significantly different between medically (75%) and surgically (73%) managed neonates. Long-term survival rate was excellent (66/71 [93%]) for horses that survived to hospital discharge. Most neonates surviving to maturity were used as intended (49/59 [83%]).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most neonates examined for signs of colic can be managed medically. Short-term survival rate in medically and surgically treated neonates was good. Long-term survival rate of foals discharged from the hospital was excellent, with most achieving intended use.

Abstract

Objective—To document causes of colic in equine neonates, evaluate clinical features of neonates managed medically versus surgically, determine short- and long-term survival rates for neonates with specific medical and surgical lesions, and assess ability of patients to achieve intended use.

Design—Retrospective case series.

Animals—137 client-owned equine neonates (< 30 days old) with a history of colic or signs of colic within 1 hour after hospital admission examined between 2000 and 2010.

Procedures—Signalment, history, results of physical examination, laboratory data, ancillary diagnostic tests, details of treatment, primary diagnosis, concurrent diseases and short-term survival rate were obtained from the medical records. Long-term follow-up information was obtained through phone survey.

Results—137 neonates with colic were included. The majority (122 [89%]) of neonates were managed medically. The 3 most common diagnoses associated with colic were enterocolitis (37 [27%]), meconium-associated colic (27 [20%]), and transient medical colic (26 [19%]). The most common reason for surgery was small intestinal strangulating obstruction, and these neonates were more likely to have severe, continuous pain and were less responsive to analgesics. Concurrent diseases were common (87 [64%]) but did not significantly impact survival rate. Short-term survival rate was not significantly different between medically (75%) and surgically (73%) managed neonates. Long-term survival rate was excellent (66/71 [93%]) for horses that survived to hospital discharge. Most neonates surviving to maturity were used as intended (49/59 [83%]).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most neonates examined for signs of colic can be managed medically. Short-term survival rate in medically and surgically treated neonates was good. Long-term survival rate of foals discharged from the hospital was excellent, with most achieving intended use.

Contributor Notes

Dr. MacKinnon's present address is Milton Equine Hospital, 10207 Guelph Line RR No. 1, Campbellville, ON L0P 1B0, Canada.

Presented in part in poster form at the 10th Equine Colic Research Symposium, Indianapolis, July 2011.

The authors thank Dr. Helen Aceto for statistical advice.

Address correspondence to Dr. MacKinnon (melissa.c.mackinnon@gmail.com).