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Objective—To determine the effects of diode laser palatoplasty on the soft palate in horses.

Animals—6 clinically normal horses and 6 euthanized horses from another study.

Procedures—6 horses underwent diode laser palatoplasty (treated horses); 3 received low-dose laser treatment (1,209 to 1,224 J), and 3 received high-dose treatment (2,302 to 2,420 J). Six other horses received no treatment (control horses). The upper respiratory tracts of all treated horses were evaluated immediately following surgery (day 0) and on days 2, 7, 14, 21, 30, and 45. Horses were euthanized on day 45, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head was performed. The soft palate was removed from treated and control horses, evaluated grossly, and scored for edema, inflammation, and scarring. Soft palates from all horses were sectioned for histologic and biomechanical evaluations.

Results—Endoscopic examination revealed a significant increase in soft palate scarring and decrease in edema and inflammation in treated horses by day 7. Gross postmortem findings corresponded with MRI findings. Gross and histologic examination revealed a significant increase in scarring, edema, and inflammation at day 45. Histologic evaluation of palatal tissue from high-dose–treated horses revealed full-thickness injury of skeletal muscle, with atrophy of muscle fibers; findings in low-dose–treated horses indicated superficial injury to skeletal muscle. After surgery, treated horses had a significant decrease in soft palate elastic modulus, compared with control horses.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Laser palatoplasty resulted in soft palate fibrosis and skeletal muscle loss; however, the fibrosis did not result in an increase in soft palate elastic modulus.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research